It may be possible to keep HIV at bay indefinitely with injections every month or two — a much lighter regimen than any so effective that's currently offered — according to a new study by Johnson & Johnson and partner ViiV Healthcare.

The results are early and tentative: The companies have completed just the first 32 weeks of a planned 96-week study. Patients are given one drug from each company.

All of the more than 300 patients tested already had previously used more conventional treatments of daily pills, and already had their HIV levels reduced to undetectable levels — though without further treatment the virus would have started spreading again. About 95 percent of those who got the injections saw the HIV kept in check — an improvement over the 91 percent of those getting three standard drugs who also saw the virus kept at bay.

"Despite great progress in HIV treatments, the burden of treating HIV patients remains high," Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer and worldwide chairman of pharmaceuticals said in a statement from the company. "Long-acting injectable drug formulations may offer another option for HIV maintenance therapy. Our hope in studying such combinations is to make HIV infection manageable with a potentially transformational all injectable regimen."

The study combines rilpivirine, marketed as Endurant, from Janssen (a Johnson and Johnson company) with and ViiV Healthcare's cabotegravir, marketed as

According to the companies, almost 75 million people have been infected with the HIV virus since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. It said an estimated 35 million people are currently living with HIV globally, with 2.5 million people becoming newly infected each year.

Johnson & Johnson is headquartered in New Brunswick, adjacent to the campus of Rutgers University.