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starting haart

May 31, 2004

Dear Dr. Ive tried to find the answer to this question on this site and others but have had no joy. When a regimen is started and it takes weeks to months for the viral load to reach undetectable, during this time how is the virus still making copies of its self.I thought that the drugs either worked or didnt. I ask this because i see posts where people are having blips with the ensuing resistance worries and i wonder how having a load far greater than a blip level for possibly months doesnt cause resistance. Thanks Steve.S

Response from Dr. Young

Thanks for your question.

The specifics to your question have to do with the kinetics of viral replication and treatment-- probably best studied by Drs. Martin Markowitz and David Ho in elegant experiments from a few years ago. These studies show that effective HIV treatments block new cycles of HIV infection of CD4s but the elimination of circulating (in blood) virus can take months, particularly in patients with high viral loads.

Furthermore, recent studies show that persons who have viral load blips or even transient low-level viral loads don't appear to have any measurable increase in risk for drug resistance.

So, while your question is a good one (and cause for valid theoretical concern), the practical data so far argues that these low level measurments of virus don't seem to be associated with premature treatment failure.

Thanks for reading. BY

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