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Study doesn't answer AIDS treatment question

People with HIV who receive the drug AZT early in their infections postpone the development of AIDS, but die just as soon as those who start the medicine later, a study concludes.

The study was intended to settle the question of when people infected with HIV, the AIDS virus, should start taking AZT. But it failed to provide a clear answer.

During 2{ years of follow-up, it found that those with early treatment reduced the development of full-blown AIDS by nearly half. But once AIDS developed, they tended to go downhill faster. And their survival at the end of the study was 77 percent, slightly worse than those who began treatment later.

The study was published in today's New England Journal of Medicine.

The researchers said they were uncertain how doctors should use AZT, also known as zidovudine. They said early treatment "warrants consideration." On the other hand, "we also believe that one may consider delaying .

.

. zidovudine therapy in patients whose condition is stable."

At New England Medical Center in Boston, Dr. Paul Skolnik said he did not think the results should deter doctors from starting early AIDS treatment. By delaying the start of AIDS, treatment improves the quality _ if not the length _ of patients' lives.

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