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A six-year National Institutes of Health'sponsored study of 1,132 HIV-positive women who began antiretroviral treatment after progressing to late-stage HIV disease shows that anti-HIV drugs are helpful even for those who start treatment late. The study shows that low CD4-cell counts and high viral loads before beginning treatment are not predictive of weaker long-term responses to anti-HIV treatment as long as improvements in both measurements occur soon after therapy is initiated. U.S. treatment guidelines call for antiretroviral therapy to start when CD4-cell counts fall below 350 or HIV viral loads climb above 30,000. But many HIV-positive people do not learn that they are infected until they develop late-stage HIV disease. 'Prior to this study it was believed that many patients with advanced-stage HIV would not do very well with [highly active antiretroviral therapy],' notes Kathryn Anastos, principal investigator. 'Our study shows that is not the case.'