HIV Patients Often Experience Viral "Breakthrough," But May Still Remain,,Healthy, San Francisco Study Finds

Geneva, Switzerland -- Fifty-five percent of HIV patients who had achieved undetectable levels of the virus with combination antiretroviral therapy are projected to experience a resurgence of the virus within one year, according to San Francisco AIDS specialists.

Results of a community-based study were reported here today (June 30) at the 12th World AIDS Conference. The study was a combined project of the University of California San Francisco and the Community Consortium, an association of 200 health care providers who care for the majority of HIV/AIDS patients in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Though a majority of the 233 patients in the study experienced a "breakthrough," or a return of the virus to a detectable level, the patients remained generally healthy, with only three suffering from a significant HIV-related opportunistic infection or malignancy during an average of 10 months of follow-up, said lead author John Nienow, MD, UCSF assistant clinical professor of medicine.

"It's good news that the vast majority of patients are doing well clinically, though over one-half had a resurgence in their viral load. What is surprising is that, so far, many of the viral load breakthroughs have not been very high, and we have seen very little progression of HIV disease," Nienow said.

"These findings suggest that maintaining undetectable viral load levels may not be necessary to sustain wellness. Loss of viral suppression doesn't appear to lead automatically to clinical progression of disease," he added.

Donald Abrams, MD, chair of the Community Consortium and UCSF professor of medicine at the UCSF-affiliated San Francisco General Hospital, presented the research results at the World Conference.

The patients, treated at 10 sites in the Bay Area, were mostly men, and 36 percent were minorities. Five individuals had a history of injection drug use. Fifty-five percent of the patients had a diagno

Contact: Corinna Kaarlela
(415) 476-3804
University of California - San Francisco

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