A new US trial looking at when HIV medication should be taken in the life-cycle of the virus needs Australian participants.

Researchers are looking for participants in Sydney and Melbourne to take part in the global study which could help improve the long-term quality of life of people living with HIV.

People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) Victoria president Paul Kidd said the trial was critical to discover if earlier treatment improves long-term health.

“It’s the most important unanswered question about HIV treatment,” he told Sydney Star Observer.

“We still don’t know enough about it and whether the long term benefits of starting treatment earlier … are balanced against the side effects.”

Kidd said the trial is looking for participants who have not yet started any HIV anti-retroviral treatment.

The trial will split participants into two groups and look at the long-term effects of taking anti-retroviral medication at a stage when a person’s CD4 T-cell count is still high, compared with those who wait longer for treatment.

The CD4 T-cell count determines a person’s viral load and health of their immune system.

Current Australian guidelines recommend those with a CD4 T-cell count between 350 and 500 be given the option to start anti-retroviral treatment.

Those with a CD4 T-cell count of 350 and below are strongly advised to start treatment.

The long-term benefits of starting treatment closer to the 500 T-cell mark are still unknown.

Kidd said starting treatment can be a difficult decision for people living with HIV as a change of lifestyle must be taken into consideration.

“There’s a lot to think about and the decision to start treatment is very real … for some starting treatment it means a daily reminder they have HIV.”

The study, funded by the US Government and led by the National Institute of Health, is expected to take around four to seven years to complete.

Kidd said there is not much more required of participants other than an ordinary check-up with their GP.

There are five trial sites in Australia including St Vincents Hospital, Taylor Square Clinic and East Sydney Doctors in Sydney; and The Alfred and Prahran Market Clinic in Melbourne.

The study will involve around 4000 participants around the world.

info: To join the trial please speak to your GP at participating clinics.

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