Fourteen patients who were treated within the first two months of infection were later able to stop combination antiretroviral therapy without an HIV rebound, according to Asier Sáez-Cirión of the Institut Pasteur in Paris.

While all 14 still have HIV, in most cases it can only be detected with ultra-sensitive laboratory tests and is undetectable by standard methods, Sáez-Cirión and colleagues reported in the journal PLoS Pathogens.

But in all cases, the infection appears to be under control without the use of drugs – the definition of a functional cure, which unlike a “sterilizing” cure does not completely get rid of HIV.

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The report is the second in several days of what appears to be curative early treatment for HIV.

Researchers reported at the recent Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections that combination antiretroviral treatment in the first few hours of life appears to have eliminated HIV infection in a baby.

Several studies of so-called treatment interruption have showed that for most people, stopping therapy leads to sharp and dangerous increases in HIV replication, Saag noted.

The difference in this group, the researchers suggested, is that they were treated very early, in what’s called primary or acute infection, and spent between a year and 7.6 years on therapy, with a median of 36.5 months.

Their reasons for stopping, Sáez-Cirión told MedPage Today in an email, included a desire to take a vacation from therapy and participation in a treatment-interruption study.

The 10 men and four women have now been off therapy for between four and 10 years. Their plasma viral loads are below 40 copies of HIV RNA per milliliter in all but three cases, and below five copies in five patients.

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