Bad News for AHF: A Milestone In The Campaign To Reduce The Number Of AIDS Deaths

Oct 1, 2015
AHF
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A milestone the AIDS profiteers at AIDS Healthcare Foundation are certain to dread…

The world’s annual death toll from AIDS has been falling in recent years — 1.5 million in 2013, a 35 percent drop from the peak of number 2.4 million in 2005.

And now the number of deaths could soon drop even more.

Bad News for AHF: A Milestone In The Campaign To Reduce The Number Of AIDS Deaths -- A mother gets antiretroviral drugs at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in South Africa in May 2012. Alexander Joe/AFP/Getty Images

A mother gets antiretroviral drugs at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in South Africa in May 2012.
Alexander Joe/AFP/Getty Images

The World Health Organization issued new guidelines Wednesday that recommend greatly increasing the number of people who take antiretroviral medications for the treatment and prevention of HIV infection.

The document says that all HIV-positive people should immediately start antiretroviral treatment, which “removes all limitations on eligibility for antiretroviral therapy (ART) among people living with HIV.”

Dr. Gottfried Hirnschall, director of WHO’s HIV division in Geneva, said that the guidelines mean “there shouldn’t be any eligibility barrier anymore.” That’s a potential boon for patients in low- and middle-income countries, who typically are not offered this therapy. But it does mean that money must be raised to cover the costs of ART.

Before this announcement, WHO’s recommendation was to start treatment after an HIV-positive person’s CD4 count dropped below 500 cells per cubic millimeter of blood. The CD4 count helps measure the strength of the immune system; a healthy person’s range is usually between 500 and 1,200. When an HIV-positive person’s CD4 count drops below 200, their body is less likely to fight off infection, and they are are diagnosed with AIDS.

WHO also called for far greater use of pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP. PrEP is a program that involves taking a once-daily HIV pill called Truvada to prevent HIV infection. WHO says clinical trials confirmed that PrEP works “to prevent people from acquiring HIV in a wide variety of settings and populations.” It’s a step up from guidelines issued last year that endorsed the idea that PrEP could be useful in combatting the spread of HIV.

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