SA to decide on new life-saving HIV treatment guidelines

2013-07-02 15:26

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released new guidelines on HIV treatment, which could avert three million deaths and prevent another 3.5 million new HIV infections globally between now and 2025.

The new guidelines encourage countries to start offering antiretroviral drugs to HIV-positive adults with a CD4 cell count of 500 or below, instead of 350 or below.

However, no decision has been taken by the South African government on whether it will increase the ARV eligibility threshold.

Department of health spokesperson Joe Maila said today: “We are looking at how the guidelines will affect us, as soon as we have made the decision we will make an announcement.”

The WHO based its recommendation on evidence that treating people with HIV earlier increases their expectancy while reducing their risk of transmitting the virus to others.

Dr Margaret Chan, director-general at the WHO, described this move as “another leap ahead in a trend of ever-higher goals and ever-greater achievements”.

She said: “With nearly 10 million people now on antiretroviral therapy, we see that such prospects can now fuel the momentum needed to push the HIV epidemic into irreversible decline.”

The new recommendations also call on countries to provide ARVs to all children with HIV under five years of age, all pregnant and breastfeeding women with HIV, and to all HIV-positive partners where one partner in the relationship is not infected, irrespective of their CD4 cell count.

Anthony Lake, executive director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), welcomed the new recommendations saying, “it’s advances like these that allow children and pregnant women access to treatment earlier and more safely, and move us closer to our goal of an AIDS-free generation.

“Now we must accelerate our efforts, investing in innovations that allow us to test new born babies faster and giving them the appropriate treatment so that they enjoy the best possible start in life,” he said in a statement.

The new guidelines came at a time when new data revealed that by the end of last year a total of 9.7 million people in the world were taking these life-prolonging drugs.

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