Women newly diagnosed with HIV have far less virus in their
blood than men at the same stage, a study found.
The difference disappears later, according to the study at Johns
The finding is unlikely to affect treatment, because the
treatment guidelines were changed between the time the article was
written and its publication in Thursday's New England Journal of
When the article was written, it was thought best to put
patients on antiviral drugs when their AIDS virus levels reached
20,000 particles per millileter of blood plasma. Guidelines
released in January call for waiting until there are 55,000
particles per millileter.
The risk of developing full-blown AIDS rises with the level of
virus in the blood.
The researchers checked the blood of 156 male and 46 female
injection drug users every six months. They found that newly
diagnosed men had an average of 50,766 copies per millileter, while
women averaged 15,103.
The Johns Hopkins researchers also noted that the level of CD4
cells--the white blood cells that are HIV's main target--is a
much better predictor of infections and death than viral particles.
The new guidelines call for starting drug treatment when the CD4
count has dropped to 350 cells per cubic millimeter, versus 500
under the previous guidelines.