People who start HIV therapy when their CD4 count is above 500 are much less likely to develop a cancer linked to an infection than people who start HIV therapy at lower CD4 counts. These findings come from a major study (START) to assess the benefits of early HIV therapy.

In the study, people with CD4 counts over 500 were randomised to start HIV treatment immediately, or to wait until their CD4 count fell to 350.

Overall results of the study showed clear benefits of early treatment. Preliminary results also showed that early treatment reduced the risk of cancer by two-thirds, but did not differentiate according to whether cancers had infections as their underlying cause.

The latest analysis showed that early HIV treatment reduced the risk of infection-related cancers by 75%. The most common infection-related cancers were Kaposi’s sarcoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Other predictors of infection-related cancers were older age, high body mass index (BMI), living in a low-income region and a high viral load.

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