Although antiretroviral treatment (ART) has led to a decline in morbidity and mortality of HIV-infected patients in developed countries, it has also presented challenges. These challenges include increases in pill burden; adherence to treatment; development of resistance and treatment failure; development of drug toxicities; and increase in cost of HIV treatment and care. These issues stimulated interest in investigating the short-term and long-term consequences of discontinuing ART, thus providing support for research in structured treatment interruptions (STI).
Structured treatment interruptions of antiretroviral treatment involve taking supervised breaks from ART. STI are defined as one or more planned, timing pre-specified, cyclical interruptions in ART. STI are attempted in monitored clinical settings in eligible participants. STI have generated hopes of reducing drug toxicities, decreasing costs and total time on treatment in HIV-positive patients. The first STI was attempted in the case of a patient in Germany, who later permanently discontinued treatment. This successful anecdotal case report led to several trials on STI worldwide.