HIV/Aids

Updated 04 July 2014

HIV-positive inmates benefit from drug therapy

HIV patients with 'viral suppression' are less likely to transmit the Aids-causing virus to others, and providing drug therapy to HIV-positive prison inmates has been very effective.

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Providing drug therapy to HIV-positive prison inmates helped a significant number of them achieve suppression of the virus before they were released, a new study finds.

HIV patients with so-called "viral suppression" are less likely to transmit the Aids-causing virus to others, experts noted.

The study, published online in JAMA Internal Medicine, included 882 HIV-infected prisoners in Connecticut who were in jail for at least 90 days and were put on antiretroviral therapy (ART). Most of the prisoners were men, their average age was 43 and about half were black.

Read: Early drug therapy curbs HIV

Likelihood of viral suppression

Nearly 30% of the inmates had viral suppression when they began their sentence, compared with 70% just before their release, the study found. Age, race, length of jail term, or type of antiretroviral

regimen did not affect the likelihood of viral suppression, according to a journal news release.

"Treatment for HIV within prison is facilitated by a highly structured environment and, when combined with simple well-tolerated ART regimens, can result in viral suppression during incarceration," said study author Dr Jaimie Meyer, of Yale University School of Medicine, and colleagues.

But not every state has resources similar to those in Connecticut, another doctor pointed out.

"Unfortunately, the features of the excellent correctional care provided to HIV-infected persons in this Connecticut system are not available to all of the estimated 20 000 HIV-infected persons incarcerated in federal or state facilities," Dr Michael Puisis, a correctional consultant in Evanston, Illinois, wrote in an accompanying commentary in the journal.

"While the Connecticut study is a positive accomplishment, HIV care in correctional centres still needs improvement in several areas," he said. "We should take fullest advantage of the incarceration period, when people can receive supervised treatment, to improve their health and to develop discharge plans that will maintain these benefits on the outside."

Read more:
Second-line ARTs suppress resistant HIV
HIV treatment interruptions

HIV drug resistance testing

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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria before working for an HIV/AIDS NPO in Soweto for many years. She was named one of the Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in 2012.

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