At the 8th International AIDS Society Conference (IAS 2015) held in Vancouver in July 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) Department of HIV/AIDS recommended expanded use of antiretroviral treatment (ART).
The WHO’s recommendation is that anyone who has HIV should be treated as soon as possible after diagnosis, rather than waiting for the disease to progress before treatment is administered. Up until now there has been a threshold requirement for CD4 cells – the white blood cells that assist with immune response – before the initiation of antiretrovirals (ARVs).
Additionally, the WHO recommended that people at “substantial” risk of contracting HIV be given the drugs as a preventative measure.
These recommendations follow two large studies published in July 2015, which showed in clinical trials that the early use of ART improves the quality of life for people living with HIV, keeps them alive for longer and reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to partners.
Helping save lives
According to the BBC, the changes would increase the number of people eligible for ARVs across the globe from 28 to 37 million.
UNAIDS, who has welcomed the changes, estimated that they could help avert 21 million AIDS-related deaths and 28 million new infections by 2030 following these new recommendations.
The group’s executive director, Michel Sidibe, told the BBC: "Everybody living with HIV has the right to life-saving treatment. The new guidelines are a very important steps towards ensuring that all people living with HIV have immediate access to antiretroviral treatment."
These changes would be instrumental in reaching the UNAIDS goal of treating 90% of people diagnosed with HIV by the year 2020.
In South Africa
The South African government is currently considering this recommendation, and experts think it is likely that the change will be adopted in the next year or two.
“It would be a very good thing,” says Professor Francois Venter, deputy executive director at the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute. “It will mean fewer new infections, and less of a burden on hospitals and clinics in terms of illness, even though a slight increase in workload initiating ARTs earlier.”
Venter notes that the immediate cost and increase in business at ART clinics are potential challenges, within an estimated three million additional South Africans now becoming eligible for ART.
How Clicks Clinics can help you
Did you know Clicks offers HIV testing and counselling at their clinics? To make an appointment at a Clicks Clinic, call 0860 254 257 or book online at Clicks Clinics online.
HIV home test kits are also available for purchase in-store.
IMAGE CREDIT: 123rf.com