WHO Issues New HIV Guidelines for Couples

Joe DeCapua

The World Health Organization has issued new guidelines for couples in which one partner is HIV positive and the other is not. The guidelines for so-called “discordant” couples are being praised by UNAIDS, Doctors Without Borders and others.

The WHO recommends giving antiretroviral treatment to HIV-positive partners, even if their immune systems are still healthy. Studies have shown that such treatment can prevent the transmission of HIV to their uninfected partners.

Dr. Bernhard Schwartlander of UNAIDS calls it a new era of hope, more than 30 years into the epidemic.

“I’ve been with AIDS since very beginning and I have seen many of my close, personal friends die because we had nothing in our hands that we could give them. I’ve seen many of my friends become infected before they really knew that it was out there so they couldn’t do much about it. With the recent development I think we have now really many tools in our hands which empower people with HIV. We can empower those who cannot escape risk to protect themselves, to protect their partners from HIV,” he said.

It also allows for better communication. Often HIV-positive people are afraid to discuss their status with their uninfected partners. Using treatment as prevention, he said, allows infected partners to regain their dignity.

Schwartlander, UNAIDS director of the Evidence, Strategy and Results Department, said the new WHO guidelines can save lives.

“We are very happy that these guidelines have been announced. They respond to the scientific evidence that has been accumulated over the past year that the person living with HIV, if that person receives ARVs, then the chance that the person would pass on the virus to a partner is dramatically reduced, which of course is a very, very important finding,” he said.

Schwartlander spoke from Nairobi, Kenya. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to most of the people living with HIV/AIDS and it’s where most of the HIV/AIDS deaths have occurred.

“About half of all people living with HIV who live in a regular partnership have a partner who’s not of the same status - a partner who is HIV negative, both for men and for women,” he said.

The UNAIDS official acknowledged the call for more widespread treatment comes during a time of budget cutbacks. However, he says everyone currently infected will eventually need treatment. Treating people before their immune system collapses, he said, will prevent many opportunistic infections and save money in the long run.

The World Health Organization guidelines are also being praised by the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders. It calls them a major advance that puts the world on the road to reversing the epidemic.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigationsi
Katherine Gypson
December 01, 2015 10:06 PM
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigations

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Russia Marks World AIDS Day With Grim News

While HIV infection rates have steadied or even declined in many European countries, the caseload has grown rapidly in Russia, as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow. Over half of the new infections were transmitted through injection drug use.

Video Pakistan Hit Hard by Global Warming

As world leaders meet in Paris to craft a new global agreement aimed at cutting climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions, many developing countries are watching closely for the final results. While most developing nations contribute much less to global warming than developed countries, they often feel the effects to a disproportionate degree. As Saud Zafar reports from Karachi, one such nation is Pakistan. Aisha Khalid narrates his report.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

VOA Blogs