WHO calls for HIV early treat­ment

Lesotho Times - - Health -

GENEVA — Ev­ery­one with HIV should be given anti-retro­vi­ral drugs as soon as pos­si­ble af­ter di­ag­no­sis, mean­ing 37 mil­lion peo­ple world­wide should be on treat­ment, the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO) has said.

Re­cent clin­i­cal tri­als have con­firmed that early drug use ex­tends the lives of those with the AIDS­caus­ing virus and cuts the risk of dis­ease trans­mis­sion to part­ners, the WHO said in a state­ment set­ting out the new goal for its 194 mem­ber states.

Un­der pre­vi­ous WHO guide­lines, which lim­ited treat­ment to those whose im­mune cell counts had fallen be­low a cer­tain thresh­old, 28 mil­lion peo­ple were deemed el­i­gi­ble for anti-retro­vi­ral ther­apy (ART).

All peo­ple at “sub­stan­tial” risk of con­tract­ing HIV should also be given pre­ven­tive ART, not just men who have sex with men, the WHO said.

The new guide­lines are a cen­tral plank of the United Na­tions agency’s aim to end the AIDS epi­demic by 2030.

“Ev­ery­body liv­ing with HIV has the right to life-sav­ing treat­ment. The new guide­lines are a very im­por­tant step to­wards en­sur­ing that all peo­ple liv­ing with HIV have im­me­di­ate ac­cess to anti-retro­vi­ral treat­ment,” said Michel Sidibe, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of UNAIDS.

“Ac­cord­ing to UNAIDS

esti- mates, ex­pand­ing ART to all peo­ple liv­ing with HIV and ex­pand­ing preven­tion choices can help avert 21 mil­lion Aids-re­lated deaths and 28 mil­lion new in­fec­tions by 2030.”

The move will lead to a sharp in­crease in de­mand for ART medi- cines, which are typ­i­cally given as a three-drug cock­tail to avoid the risk of the virus de­vel­op­ing re­sis­tance.

Ma­jor sup­pli­ers of HIV drugs in­clude Gilead Sciences , Viiv Health­care, which is ma­jor­ity-owned by Glax­osmithk­line, and mul­ti­ple In- dian generic man­u­fac­tur­ers.

The med­i­cal char­ity Medecins Sans Fron­tieres (Doc­tors With­out Bor­ders) wel­comed the WHO’S “treat-all” plan, which it be­lieves will pre­vent many Hiv-pos­i­tive peo­ple in poorer coun­tries from fall­ing through the treat­ment net.

MSF said its ex­pe­ri­ence showed that a third of peo­ple who were di­ag­nosed with HIV, but not el­i­gi­ble to start treat­ment, never re­turned to the clinic.

The char­ity also warned that mak­ing the new rec­om­men­da­tion a re­al­ity would re­quire dra­mat­i­cally in­creased financial sup­port from donors and gov­ern­ments.

The WHO es­ti­mates that by 2020 low- and lower-mid­dle in­come coun­tries will need $18.4 bil­lion an­nu­ally for the ex­panded HIV fight.

How­ever, fast-track­ing the re­sponse should yield eco­nomic re­turns of $15 per dol­lar in­vested, based on im­proved health and in­fec­tions averted.

Since it be­gan spread­ing 30 years ago, AIDS has killed around 40 mil­lion peo­ple world­wide.

— Reuters

Clin­i­cal tri­als have con­firmed that early drug use ex­tends the lives of those with HIV.

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