March 15, 2006

Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART), a combination therapy for HIV/AIDS that has been shown to be effective in many industrialized nations, is less likely to successfully combat the disease in developing countries, according to an article published in the British journal The Lancet. The study reported that in poorer countries, patients were more likely to die during the first few months of the HAART treatment than those in developed nations.

The study compared the ART-LINC Collaboration -- 18 HAART programs in Africa, Asia, and South America -- with a system of 12 HAART programs in Europe and North America. Later diagnosis, the presence of comorbidities (other diseases) and the comparatively high cost of antiretroviral (ARV) medications, noted the study, likely contributed to the higher rate of mortality in the former group. Making ARVs available for free in poorer areas would reduce this rate, the study states.

"Eligibility for antiretroviral treatment and the need for treatment of tuberculosis should be determined earlier, and HAART should be started before serious comorbidities develop," wrote Matthias Egger, co-author of the study and a professor at the University of Berne in Switzerland. In an editorial attached to the main study, the journal authors added that the "start of this year has seen new initiatives to raise money to fund HIV prevention and care services, including antiretrovirals and the infrastructure to deliver them, in the developing world."