Giving a patient HIV drugs as soon as they are diagnosed could be the future of treatment, say researchers.
Currently, antiretroviral therapy is given only once the immune system has been seriously weakened by infection.
A trial, in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that a year-long course of therapy after diagnosis helped preserve the immune system and keep the virus in check.
It is thought that early treatment may also reduce the spread of HIV.
The virus is no longer a death sentence for patients who get the best care and drugs. Treatment is given once their CD4 T-cell count, a part of the immune system, falls below 350 cells per cubic millimetre of blood.
However, there has been some speculation that starting as soon as a patient is diagnosed may be more beneficial.
The Spartac study, which involved 366 patients from eight countries around the world, tested the theory.