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WHO Calls for Immediate HIV Treatment

Revised guidelines recommend prompt treatment for all with positive test results

The World Health Organization’s new guidance for the treatment of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) recommends that all patients with positive tests for the virus causing AIDS be treated immediately. These recommendations fall in line with what is already advised in many countries, including the United States.

Prior to these guidelines, the global health agency encouraged doctors to wait to treat certain patients until signs of the virus’s effects on the immune system were apparent.

As reported by The New York Times and the Associated Press, the new guidance says that all 37 million people with HIV around the world should be offered immediate treatment, a goal that may be unrealistic in impoverished countries, where many patients are still unable to obtain treatment. Last year, only about 15 million people with HIV were being treated. The WHO recommends that the sickest patients be prioritized and that those at high risk of infection be offered preventive therapy.

 While experts commended the new guidelines, they warned that fulfilling them would require a substantial cash injection and an overhaul of current strategies. "To work as a tool to control the epidemic, [these guidelines] will require drastic changes and increased investment," said Dr. Tom Ellman, director of the Southern Africa Medical Unit for Doctors Without Borders. "Nobody's going to end AIDS with business as usual."

WHO and the United Nations AIDS agency estimated that implementing the new guidelines could avert 21 million AIDS deaths and prevent 28 million new infections by 2030.

Sources: The New York Times, September 30, 2015; the Associated Press, September 30, 2015.

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