Early treatment of HIV with antiretroviral drugs has allowed fourteen adults to cease medication and remain with reduced levels of the virus, a researcher in Paris found. A similar method was used to functionally cure a child with the infection last week. The fourteen people received their treatments shortly after being infected — no more than 10 weeks later — and after ending use of the drugs, some were able to reduce levels of the virus even further, New Scientist reports. Traces of HIV still existed, but at low enough levels that their immune systems could control it from spreading.

Early treatment appears to be a major factor

Researcher Asier Sáez-Cirión was studying 70 people who had entirely ceased treatment, when he found the four women and ten men who hadn't relapsed. On average, the fourteen patients had initially taken the antiretroviral drugs for three years, and had remained off of them for seven years at the time of the study. Sáez-Cirión's analysis showed that none of the fourteen were among the one percent of the population that is genetically resistant to HIV.

Sáez-Cirión's next step is to determine what factors allowed the patients to continue without treatment. His initial findings underscore those published last week on the functionally cured child — that in controlling the virus, early treatment is key.