People with HIV who are treated to prevent the respiratory disease tuberculosis have a one-third lower risk of developing the disease than those who do not get treatment. That's the conclusion of a new analysis of 11 different studies by the nonprofit Global Health Council.
Tuberculosis (TB) is the primary killer of people with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The analysis shows that giving medicine to prevent active tuberculosis works best on those with a positive immune test for infection with TB bacteria. It reduced the risk of active disease in this group by two thirds, but that test may not work on those with advanced AIDS, whose immune systems are failing.
The study also said that there is some evidence that TB preventive treatment may reduce the risk of and increase the time it takes to develop full-blown AIDS. However, there is no evidence that fewer people on TB preventive therapy died. Since many poor countries are already struggling to pay for anti-AIDS drugs called ARVs, study author Sara Woldehanna said that more research is needed to assess the costs and benefits of TB preventive therapy.
"We need to find out if these drugs extend life beyond just slowing the progression to full-blown AIDS," she said. "We need to find out the cost-effectiveness of the anti-TB drugs as compared to ARVs. All of these issues need to be taken into consideration when policy makers and decision makers make the decision of whether to offer preventive therapy."