A new study of 1,763 heterosexual couples in which one partner had HIV and the other didn't found that patients are 96% less likely to pass on the virus if they start taking antiretroviral drugs immediately. In half of the couples, the infected partner started taking the drugs right away, and the rest started taking the drug later in the disease. All were instructed on preventing transmission and given free condoms. In the group that waited, 27 partners were infected, all before the HIV patient started taking the drugs. In the other group only one partner was infected.
The results were so convincing that an independent review panel decided to release the results four years before the end of the study. After reviewing the research, Salim Abdool Karim, an AIDS researcher and professor at South Africa's University of KwaZulu-Natal, said, "I was bowled over... If we can implement this, we have a real chance to turn the tide on the HIV epidemic."