WHO Announces Antiretrovirals as Early Treatment and Prevention for HIV

By Jennifer Orford

Over the next two weeks Impact will post the top 12 global health moments of 2015 with commentary from experts. We want to hear your thoughts, too. So login and comment, share on social media and reflect on what has been a pretty interesting year for global health.

HIV Self
NPR’S Jason Beaubien reports: World Health Organization Posts Ambitious New Guidelines for HIV Treatment

This year, the World Health Organization (WHO) took a major step towards the global community’s commitment: ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. In September 2015, The United Nations agency released new guidelines indicating that antiretroviral therapy (ART) should be available for all people living with HIV upon diagnosis, and daily Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) should be used as prevention for people at “substantial” risk of infection. WHO’s new “treat all” recommendation allows for previously ineligible populations to have access to treatment, and for those most in need of new prevention medications to access them.

According to these guidelines, the number of people eligible for antiretroviral treatment increases from 28 million to all 37 million people who currently live with HIV globally. Expanding access to treatment and thus preventing new infections is at the heart of UNAIDS’ 90-90-90 targets for 2020. To end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, 90 percent of people living with HIV must know their status, 90 percent of those with HIV must receive ART, and 90 percent of those on ART should have no detectable virus in their blood — all by 2020. These goals are set forward in UNAIDS’ Fast Track Strategy.

This dramatic policy shift could help avert more than 21 million deaths and 28 million new infections by 2030, according to UNAIDS.

“The two recommendations are critically important to moving us towards the Fast-Track treatment and prevention goals,” said Mark Dybul, Executive Director, The Global Fund. “Expanding access to treatment and prevention, especially for key populations and adolescent girls, is now a major global health challenge that requires our collective commitment and determination. We must embrace ambition if we are going to end HIV as a public health threat.”

“We must embrace ambition if we are going to end HIV as a public health threat.”

Now that the framework is in place for dramatic change, it is essential that the recommendations are translated into action, and the action is translated into results. This will only happen with the support of governments, funders, and the international community.

“PEPFAR applauds WHO on the release of their ‘Guideline on when to start antiretroviral therapy and on pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV.’ This guideline expands life-saving treatment access to all persons living with HIV and highlights new developments in HIV prevention, including PrEP. These are transformative to epidemic control,” said Deborah L. Birx, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator & U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy. “Short of an HIV vaccine or cure, this gives us the critical tools we need to create an AIDS-free generation utilizing the FAST TRACK strategy. We have no excuses – it is up to us to seize this moment and chart a bold course together to end AIDS as a public health threat.

Read Transcript on NPR

 To learn about PSI’s efforts to prevent, test and treat HIV, click here.

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