ACON has welcomed the findings of a major international study that provides the most robust scientific evidence yet of the health benefits of immediate HIV treatment for HIV positive people.

The Strategic Timing of Anti-Retroviral Treatment (START) study was an international first randomised clinical trial coordinated by the Kirby Institute in partnership with three other international research centres – looking at the risks and benefits of early HIV treatment among people with ‘high’ CD4+ cell counts.

The key findings of the study are that treatment of HIV infection extends survival and prevents serious illness, including major cardiovascular events, cancer, renal and liver disease by more than 50% among those on treatment compared to those on deferred treatment.

Importantly, the study results confirm that there is no harm associated with immediate treatment either.

Commenting on the findings, ACON CEO, Nicolas Parkhill said:

“ACON is absolutely delighted to see these results, which add to the weight of evidence that supports early treatment. Gay men are at the highest risk of HIV of any population in NSW, with about 75% to 80% of new infections each year arising from sex between men, and these results are profoundly important.

“The fact that the results are so conclusive that the START study has been stopped early shows just how unequivocal this new evidence is.

“In the past, there has been concern that there was insufficient evidence to support early treatment. These new findings should hopefully alleviate such concerns, as the study’s results clearly demonstrate that deferring treatment may actually carry risks to the long term health of HIV positive people.

“We will be promoting the message to our communities that early treatment – indeed immediate treatment – is good for the health of individual HIV positive people, at the point that they feel ready to commence treatment and are fully supported in their decision to do so.

“ACON has been advocating for barriers to treatment – be they financial or otherwise – to be removed in order to encourage and support early treatment.

“To their absolute credit, the NSW Government not only has been at the forefront of the new era of HIV prevention, but they have backed their policy with action, announcing they will remove the co-payment for s100 drugs such as HIV medication, and their very strong advocacy to the federal government around the availability of HIV medications through community pharmacies.”

In welcoming the findings, ACON thanked the Kirby Institute for their work, but also acknowledged that the Australasian Society of HIV Medicine, NGO partners, advocates, and others have been instrumental in driving change. For example, it was only last year that we saw the requirement for a persons’ CD4 cell count to fall below 500 cells/mm3 before they could receive subsidised HIV treatment removed by the federal government.

“ACON has been working with our communities for 30 years and we know that without the support and cooperation of our communities, no HIV prevention effort will be successful.

“In the face of this new evidence, we need to remain focussed on involving and engaging the community, and working to ensure that gay men have access to safe sex resources, the latest information, contemporary testing technologies, and affordable and accessible treatment.”

For more information about the START trial, see the Questions and Answers or visit

For ACON media enquiries:
Andrew Hamadanian, Media & CommunicationsOfficer
E: | T: (02) 9206 2044 | M: 0419 555 768

About ACON

ACON is NSW’s leading health promotion organisation specialising in HIV prevention, HIV support and LGBTI health.

ACON’s mission is to end HIV transmission among gay and homosexually active men and to promote the lifelong health of LGBTI people and people with HIV.

 Established in 1985 as the AIDS Council of NSW, this year ACON is commemorating 30 years of service to our communities.


28-05-2015Landmark Study Proves Benefit of Immediate HIV Treatment