12 Jul 2013 11:19

SYDNEY, July 4 (Bernama) -- Millions more people could get access to life-saving HIV drugs, after Australian researchers found a lower daily dose is as safe and effective in suppressing the virus as the standard recommended quantity.

Scientists from the University of New South Wale's Kirby Institute Thursday presented their findings at the International AIDS Society Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

"This has the potential to affect the treatment of millions of HIV positive people," China's Xinhua news agency quoted Sean Emery, protocol chairperson of the study, known as ENCORE1, and Head of the Therapeutic and Vaccine Research Programme at the Kirby Institute, as saying.

"A reduced daily dose should translate into a lower cost of treatment and permit more effective and efficient use of health care resources. Essentially, more people could receive this life- saving treatment for the same amount of funding," Emery said.

HIV-positive people from 13 countries in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and Latin America took part in the trial.

Half of these people took two-thirds of the current recommended daily dose of the common antiretroviral (ART) treatment efavirenz -- the other half took the standard dose.

After observing the 630 participants regularly for a year, results indicated that taking one-third of the daily dose was both safe and effective for people with HIV infection.

The research was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with a grant of US$12.42 million.

The World Health Organisation estimates that there are currently 34 million people in the world living with HIV. The disease has claimed more than 25 million lives over the past 30 years.

While scientists continue to work on a cure, prevention and management to suppress the virus are considered our current best defence.