Study evaluates population-wide testing, early treatment for HIV prevention

Oct. 3, 2013

A study in South Africa and Zambia will assess whether house-to-house voluntary HIV testing and prompt treatment of HIV infection, along with other proven HIV prevention measures, can substantially reduce the number of new HIV infections across communities. The trial, Population Effects of Antiretroviral Therapy to Reduce HIV Transmission (PopART), is sponsored and co-funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. It builds on an earlier study that showed that early treatment for HIV-infected individuals dramatically reduces the risk of transmitting the virus.

The trial is being conducted in the two African nations because the HIV prevalence in both is high. An estimated 12.5% of adults in Zambia and 17.3% of adults in South Africa are infected. The PopART trial will involve 21 communities with a total population of 1.2 million.

The study team has randomly assigned each community to one of three groups. One group will receive an HIV prevention package that includes house-to-house, voluntary HIV testing along with the opportunity for HIV-infected individuals to begin treatment at local health centers. The second group will receive the same HIV prevention package, and infected individuals will be offered treatment at the stage of infection recommended by their country’s HIV treatment guidelines. The third group will serve as a control and receive existing HIV prevention and testing services and HIV care and treatment according to current national guidelines for their country.

The team will measure the impact of the two HIV prevention packages by determining the number of new HIV infections among 52,500 adults drawn from the 21 study communities and followed for three years. The study is expected to end in 2019. Learn more about the study.