any results of people stopping the cocktail?
Oct 12, 2000
Are there any studies in which patients who stopped taking the cocktail remained undetected for the viral load?
Response from Dr. Cohen
Yes, there are.
There are two types of studies for this issue and we have reviewed them in several other answers on here. So you might want to browse other questions as well. But in sum --
First are studies in which treatment is started soon after HIV infection happened. Note that this may be very different from starting treatment after testing positive for the first time -- since most people don't get diagnosed soon after infection. But if the diagnosis is made and treatment is started -- after a few interruptions of treatment several researchers report that the viral load may stay low (not always undetectable, but low enough to not cause much trouble) even after the medications are stopped. This is happening because of certain cells in the body that may be able to control HIV -- these are often destroyed soon after infection but with antivirals meds these cells may be preserved -- and then can be "boosted" and useful to help control HIV.
This same approach -- using treatment interruptions to try and boost a certain cell type to help the body control HIV without meds -- is also being studied in those who started treatment months to years after infection. So far there are reports that a minority of those who try these do maintain a low viral load off antivirals. It is not yet clear who would be in this minority -- researchers are looking into developing tests that might predict who has an immune system capable of controlling HIV without antivirals.
Most of them time however, when the meds are stopped, then HIV grows back -- usually in a few weeks, sometimes longer. And sometimes there are symptoms that happen when people stop the meds -- since HIV can sometimes grow to a high level. So there can be a small risk to stopping meds.
Hope that helps. And be sure to browse this site for more on this, including conference summaries that focus on this issue -- there was one late last year that is summarized on here.
Cal Cohen, M.D., M.S.
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