News / Africa

WHO: Better HIV Antiretroviral Strategies Needed

Gilead Science's Truvada combination antiretroviral pill that's taken once daily.Gilead Science's Truvada combination antiretroviral pill that's taken once daily.
x
Gilead Science's Truvada combination antiretroviral pill that's taken once daily.
Gilead Science's Truvada combination antiretroviral pill that's taken once daily.
Joe DeCapua
The World Health Organization says comprehensive HIV treatment strategies are needed in developing countries to overcome stigma and discrimination. It says there are a number of vulnerable groups unable to get full access to antiretroviral drugs.

Recent studies have shown that antiretroviral drugs not only extend the lives of people infected with HIV, but can also prevent infection in the first place. It’s a strategy known as “treatment as prevention.” It now means countries have the potential to greatly slow the spread of HIV by using the drugs as a prophylaxis. However, often those in need of HIV treatment and prevention are unable to receive them because of their social status.

“We’ve seen in many countries that there remains stigma against certain population groups. And in some countries these behaviors of these groups are criminalized. Being a sexworker in many African countries is criminal behavior. Being an MSN in some countries is criminalized and obviously injection drug use is,” said Dr. Gottfried Hirnschall, director of the WHO’s HIV/AIDS Department.

MSM is an acronym for men who have sex with men, one of the WHO’s and UNAIDS’ official groups of vulnerable people.



“We see barriers for these individuals to access services. And we obviously see that as a consequence in many places these groups have higher infection rates. They have higher mortality, etcetera,” he said.

Another part of a comprehensive strategy includes the question of when to start treatment. In the early days of antiretrovirals, the drugs were usually given to people when their immune systems had collapsed and were being attacked by opportunistic infections. The state of health is measured by the CD4 count. That is the number of particular immune cells a person has.

Hirnschall says, in recent years, the recommendation has been to start people on treatment much earlier.

“If you start as soon as possible – and that’s what’s happening now in the U.S. with the policy change that just took place – you may have a benefit to the patient. WHO now recommends initiation of treatment below a CD4 cell count of 350, which means that the immune system has already some signs of weakening, but that the patient is still not very sick yet,” he said.

By providing earlier treatment, many opportunistic infections could be avoided.

Two recent studies have proven the treatment as prevention strategy. One looked at discordant couples, where one person is HIV positive and the other is not. The drugs were 96 percent effective in preventing the HIV negative person from being infected.

Another study indicated the effectiveness of PrEP or preexposure prophylaxis.

“Even if you give drugs prior to exposure – in other words to HIV negative persons – referred to as preexposure prophylaxis – you may also protect this person from becoming infected. So the whole field of the use of antiretrovirals has become more and more exciting, but at the same time more complex,” said Hirnschall.”

The WHO official says it would cost more in the short-term to get more people on antiretrovirals sooner, probably billions more. However, he says in the long-term, the cost will drop and lives will be saved.

“You will have quite impressive reductions of both mortality and new infections. So we estimate over a period until 2020 more than 12 million new infections could be averted and 7.4 million deaths could be also averted. So in other words, yes, you need to invest. You need to front-load the resources, but you’re buying something for it,” he said.

Dr. Hirnschall says the World Health Organization is developing what are called consolidated guidelines. The aim is to help developing countries form care and treatment strategies for vulnerable groups.

You May Like

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Crowdfunding Helps Save Neil Armstrong's Spacesuit

Smithsonian turns to Kickstarter to raise more than $700,000 to help preserve the spacesuit worn by the first man to walk on the moon More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs