WEDNESDAY, Dec. 9 (HealthDay News) -- In a finding that has implications for how the AIDS virus is treated in Africa, new research suggests that antiretroviral drugs can be given without routine monitoring by lab tests.
But tests of immune-system function might still be a good idea to monitor the progression of the disease and guide the second year of treatment, the study authors report.
Patients with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, often receive drug treatment in Africa without routine laboratory monitoring. In the study, published online Tuesday in advance of publication in a future print issue of The Lancet, researchers tried to determine if that's a bad idea.
They studied 3,316 HIV-positive adults who were assigned to monitoring in both the doctor's office and the laboratory or only in the doctor's office. The patients were studied in Uganda and Zimbabwe.
"The results clearly show that first-line [antiretroviral therapy, or ART] can be delivered safely without routine biochemistry and hematology monitoring for toxic effects, but that routine CD4-cell count monitoring has a small but significant benefit in terms of disease progression and mortality, probably owing to slightly earlier switching to second-line ART," the researchers wrote.
Avert has more about AIDS in Africa.
SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, Dec. 9, 2009