NIH co-funded trial will build on results of landmark HPTN 052 study
A study in South Africa and Zambia will assess whether house-to-house voluntary HIV testing and prompt treatment of HIV infection, along with other proven HIV prevention measures, can substantially reduce the number of new HIV infections across communities.
The trial, Population Effects of Antiretroviral Therapy to Reduce HIV Transmission (PopART), or HPTN 071, is sponsored and co-funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. The trial is funded primarily by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), administered by the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator.
The PopART study will build on the results of the landmark, NIAID-funded HPTN 052 trial, which found that HIV-infected individuals who start treatment early, when their immune systems are relatively healthy, dramatically reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to their heterosexual partners.
"Through this new study, we aim to learn whether the treatment of HIV-infected individuals as a form of HIV prevention, an approach previously tested in roughly 1,800 heterosexual couples where one partner was infected, will be just as effective when implemented across an entire adult population," said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. "The study also will tell us whether this method of delivering population-wide HIV treatment as prevention is feasible and cost-effective."
The trial is being conducted in South Africa and Zambia because the HIV prevalence in those countries is among the highest in the world. An estimated 12.5 percent of adults in Zambia and 17.3 percent of adults in South Africa are infected.
Leading the study are Richard Hayes, D.Sc., professor of epidemiology and international health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and Sarah J. Fidler, Ph.D., reader in the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London.
"Mathematical models indicate that if a high proportion of a population can be tested for HIV, and those found to be infected are offered treatment right away, then the rate of new HIV infections could decrease substantially over time," said Dr. Hayes. "The PopART study is assessing whether this approach works and whether the benefits outweigh the costs-information that could help guide public health policy."
The PopART study investigators have designed an HIV prevention package that includes