UN Makes Dramatic Change to HIV Advice

Immediate treatment plan will cost billions
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 1, 2015 1:42 AM CDT
Updated Oct 1, 2015 3:00 AM CDT
UN Makes Dramatic Change to HIV Advice
A patient undergoes a blood test inside a mobile health-care clinic parked in downtown Johannesburg.   (Denis Farrell)

(Newser) – The World Health Organization has revised its HIV guidelines to recommend that anyone who tests positive for the virus that causes AIDS should be treated immediately. That guidance fits with what's already recommended in many developed nations, including the US. The UN health agency had previously said doctors should wait to treat some people with HIV until their immune systems suggested they were getting sick. But in a statement Wednesday, WHO said the new recommendations are based on recent trials that have found early treatment "keeps people with HIV alive, healthier and reduces the risk of transmitting the virus."

The new guidance means that all 37 million people with HIV globally should be offered immediate treatment, a prospect that may be unrealistic in poor countries, where many patients are still unable to get medicines. Last year, only about 15 million people with HIV were being treated. WHO says the sickest patients should be prioritized and that people who are at high risk of being infected should also be offered preventive therapy. Other experts commend the new guidelines but warn that fulfilling them would require a substantial cash injection and an overhaul of current strategies. The guidelines "will require drastic changes and increased investment," says Dr. Tom Ellman of Doctors Without Borders. "Nobody's going to end AIDS with business as usual." (Read more World Health Organization stories.)

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