Sunday, August 21, 2011
Factors to consider before starting antiviral therapy
One of the most controversial areas in the management of HIV disease is deciding the best time to start antiviral treatment. Clearly, therapy during the mildly symptomatic stage of the disease delays progression to AIDS, and treating individuals with AIDS postpones death. Consequently, most experts have long agreed that patients who have experienced complications of HIV disease, such as oral thrush (yeast infection in the mouth), chronic unexplained diarrhea, fevers, weight loss, opportunistic infections, or dementia (for example, forgetfulness) should be started on antiviral treatment even if the symptoms are mild. In patients who do not have symptoms, however, there is more uncertainty. Most recommendations for this group are based on the predictors of clinical progression, such as the number of CD4 cells. One can envision that as treatments become easier to take, better tolerated, and increasingly effective, therapy will begin to be started earlier in the course of infection.