Treating HIV patients with cocktails of AIDS drugs helps to stop them spreading the infection further and more than halved the number of new HIV diagnoses in a study in Canada, scientists said yesterday.

The findings show that treating those with HIV can not only help them live longer with the incurable and often fatal disease, but can also be a powerful way of limiting the virus' spread.

Researchers found that since the introduction of a treatment plan referred to as highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) for HIV patients in the Canadian province of British Columbia in 1996, the number of new HIV diagnoses has fallen by 52 percent.


Their study also found that rates of other sexually transmitted diseases went up, suggesting that it was the AIDS drugs — and not other confounding factors such as condom use or less sexual activity — that produced a reduction in HIV infections.

Experts commenting on the findings, which were reported at an international AIDS conference in Vienna yesterday and in the Lancet journal, said they should be used to shape future treatment plans.

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