The World Health Organisation has issued new guidelines recommending that treatment be prescribed to people as soon as possible after HIV diagnosis, irrespective of their CD4 count.
As well, WHO recommends that people at “substantial risk” of HIV infection (such as men who have sex with men) be granted access to PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) as part of a multi-pronged prevention strategy.
“These new guidelines and recommendations are a highly significant moment in the AIDS response,” said UNAIDS executive director, Michel Sidibé (pictured). “The medicines and scientific tools now at our disposal provide us with a real opportunity to save millions of lives over the coming years and to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.”
WHO guidelines previously recommended treatment at CD4 counts of 500 or less. The change comes off the back of the START study which, in May, was stopped 18 months ahead of schedule due to the indisputable findings: by starting treatment immediately upon HIV diagnosis, people reduce the risk of illness and death by 50 percent.
The PrEP guidelines are a reaction to the findings of a number of studies showing that, when used as a pre-exposure prophylaxis, Truvada greatly reduces the risk of HIV transmission. “We are at a crossroads in the response to AIDS,” said Sidibé. “We know what works — now we need to put people first and fully respect their right to health.”
If the ‘treat-all’ recommendations are implemented worldwide, it is estimated at least 21 million deaths and 28 million new infections could be averted over the next 15 years.
Read the WHO media release here.
BY CHRISTOPHER KELLY