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New Global HIV Guidelines
New HIV treatment guidelines issued by the World Health Organization recommend offering anti-retroviral therapy earlier to help patients live longer lives. This coincides with recent evidence indicates that earlier ART will help reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to others, as well. The move could prevent 3 million deaths and 3.5 million more HIV infections between now and 2025, the WHO said. HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, is the cause of AIDS.
“These guidelines represent another leap ahead in a trend of ever-higher goals and ever-greater achievements,” WHO Director General Dr Margaret Chan said. “With nearly 10 million people now on anti-retroviral therapy, we see that such prospects — unthinkable just a few years ago — can now fuel the momentum needed to push the HIV epidemic into irreversible decline.”
The recommendation encourages all countries to initiate the treatment with adults living with HIV when their CD4 cell count falls to 500 cells/mm³ or less, instead of 350 CD4 cells/mm³ or less. The recommendations also include providing ART to children under five years of age, all pregnant and breastfeeding women with HIV and people with HIV that have a partner who is not infected.
Despite this, the Global update on HIV treatment: results, impact and opportunities contains encouraging data that reinforces the feasibility of the new WHO recommendation on earlier ART, which would expand the global number of people eligible for antiretroviral therapy to 26 million.
Between 2011 and 2012, the largest acceleration ever of people enrolled on ART was achieved, with an extra 1.6 million people benefitting from antiretroviral therapy, increasing the total to 9.7 million people. Furthermore, increased coverage of treatment occurred in every region of the world, with Africa leading. Four out of 5 people who started treatment in 2012 were living in sub-Saharan Africa.