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'Test and treat': large study fails to show an impact on new HIV infections
Roger Pebody, 2016-07-23 08:50:00

The first major research study of ‘test and treat’ as a public health intervention to report its final results has found that the strategy failed to reduce new HIV infections in the communities where it was provided.

Speaking to to the 21st International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016) in Durban, South Africa on Friday, François Dabis of the University of Bordeaux said that data collection for the ANRS 12249 study was only completed a month ago. Therefore his team has not yet been able to dig deep into the data to explain the findings.

But it is already apparent that many individuals diagnosed with HIV did not link with medical care or took many months to do so. Only 49% of diagnosed individuals took treatment.

The study was far more successful in terms of bringing HIV testing to people who needed it – 92% of people with HIV knew their status. And treatment was highly effective in those who took it, with 93% having an undetectable viral load. These results were achieved in a rural, poor area of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.

Therefore in terms of the 90-90-90 targets, the study achieved 92-49-93. The weakness at the crucial middle stage may explain the lack of impact on new HIV infections. But the reasons for the poor linkage to care will need to be unpacked.