SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — Doctors from San Francisco’s Department of Public Health, along with researchers from the UCSF Center for AIDS Prevention, are finding that early treatment of HIV could cut the rate of new HIV infections among gay men.

Edwin Charlebois, who helped with the research, said they found evidence that leads him to believe that they could lower the overall infection rate by some 60 percent if patients were treated immediately after diagnosis.

Current federal standards call for the use of retroviral drugs once the patient’s T-Cell count falls below 500. But according to Charlebois, there are some concerns with the medication’s side effects.

KCBS’ Mark Seelig Reports:

“HIV drugs are particularly potent, and can have some significant side effects, but the damage that the HIV virus is causing is certainly much greater, we think, than the side effects of the drugs,” said Charlebois.

Besides side effects, these drugs can also be cost-prohibitive for some.

Charlebois hopes that other health officials will at least take a look at this idea and do some testing of their own, in order to help change the federal policy.

Other experts caution that the findings come from statistical modeling, and studies that track actual behavior could yield different results.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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