Prior to the new recommendation, at least 28 million people were eligible for anti-HIV treatment. The targets also include ensuring access to lifesaving antiretroviral therapy for 12.9 million children, pregnant women and adults by the end of 2017.
Recent studies have found multiple benefits from early treatment, including keeping patients healthier and reducing the risk of transmitting the virus to partners. “The new rules are an imperative step towards guaranteeing that all individuals living with HIV have prompt access to against retroviral treatment”, said Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of UNAIDS.
World Health Organization has also recommended use of daily oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) as a prevention choice for people who are at serious risk of HIV infection, such as commercial sex workers, men who have sex with men and injecting drug users.
UNAIDS estimated that 15 million people were on treatment as of March 2015, representing 41% of adults and 32% of children living with HIV. “Today, we can celebrate hard fought advances in both treating and preventing HIV and AIDS, but tomorrow we must get to work on how to make these guidelines a reality”.
It involves monitoring the amount of virus in the blood – the viral load – and the effect HIV is having on the immune system. But in rich countries, it’s becoming more and more common to start therapy early, before a patient’s CD4 cells have had significant declines. No country, no population, and no community should be denied these critical advances in treating and preventing HIV and AIDS.
In the USA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) already recommends starting treatment immediately after diagnosis. That would mean that roughly 37 million people around the globe should be on treatment.
It’s expected that the move will drive a dramatic increase in demand for ART medicines, which usually come in a triple-drug cocktail created to lower the risk of the virus developing resistance.
A few of the main suppliers of those anti-retroviral therapy and HIV drugs are Gilead Sciences (GILD.O) which has shown positive results in recent studies, ViiV Healthcare and other Indian generic drug manufacturers. At the same time, it is important for donors and governments to be aware that implementing the new recommendation will require significantly increased financial support.