Vancouver, Canada (April 23, 2013) — AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) today applauded the news that the World Health Organization (WHO) is set to raise its treatment initiation guidelines for HIV-positive individuals from a CD4 count of less than 350 to less than 500, allowing people to start treatment earlier.
Ahead of the official announcement of new treatment initiation guidelines which will be released in June at the IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, WHO’s Treatment and Care coordinator Dr. Meg Doherty offered a preview of the guidelines this morning at Treatment as Prevention workshop in Vancouver, Canada.
Today’s announcement is a victory for people living with HIV around the globe,” said Dr. Penninah Iutung, AHF’s Africa Bureau Chief.
According to Doherty, earlier treatment initiation will make 26 million people eligible to receive lifesaving antiretroviral medicine, an increase of 76% from the current 14.8 million.
“Today’s announcement is a victory for people living with HIV around the globe – including Africa,” said Penninah Iutung, M.D. AHF’s Africa Bureau Chief. “WHO’s decision to raise the treatment initiation guidelines removes a major roadblock to lifesaving treatment, as country AIDS programs often look to WHO recommendations when setting policy guidelines. This is a very significant step toward universal access to lifesaving antiretroviral treatment and, treatment-as-prevention.”
“AHF has been vigorously and publicly advocating for WHO to raise the treatment initiation guidelines for many years. We applaud WHO for making this critical—and lifesaving—decision,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “It’s now more important than ever that we stop the current retreat from the global AIDS fight and restore U.S funding levels for PEPFAR and the Global Fund – which have been harmed by cuts proposed by the Obama administration. Even flat-lined funding will prevent this important WHO change from having an impact.”
Studies have shown that earlier treatment initiation is associated with better clinical outcomes, lowering morbidity and mortality in patients. Additionally, a recent clinical trial HPTN 052 has shown that people people who initiate antiretroviral therapy early are 96% less likely to pass the infection to a partner. Given this evidence, earlier treatment initiation, if sufficiently implemented, has the potential to significantly reduce the number of new infections.