WEDNESDAY, July 10, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Some people with HIV may be able to go off drug treatment for an extended period and then re-start it without suffering problems.

The finding could be a way to reduce the complications of HIV drug therapy, says the Northwestern University infectious disease experts who did the study.

The observational study included 25 people with HIV who were receiving highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), and then had their treatment interrupted for an average of nine months.

None of the study participants had HIV-related infections or illnesses while their treatment was temporarily halted. However, all showed increases in their HIV virus levels and decreases in their levels of infection-fighting CD4 cells.

The study was presented today at the 14th International AIDS Conference in Barcelona, Spain.

People who had lower virus levels and stronger immune systems before they started HAART had better responses during the treatment interruption, the study found. When 11 of the participants resumed HAART, they had large increases in CD4 cell counts and showed maximum viral suppression.

"We were surprised that so many patients were able to remain off their therapy for so long a period," says study co-author Dr. Chad Achenbach, of The Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University.

"Extended treatment interruption appears safe and, after further study, may be an important HIV treatment strategy for the reduction of long-term toxicity, medications burden and expense," he says in a statement.

However, Achenbach adds that treatment interruption isn't suitable for all people with HIV, and needs to be done under a doctor's supervision.

More information

The American Foundation for AIDS research has more on managing the side effects of HAART.

Robert Preidt and Consumer news

Updated on July 10, 2002

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