News / Health

Early Treatment for HIV Can Save Millions of Lives

Anti-retroviral drug Tenofovir could cut the risk of HIV in half among injected drug users, (File photo).Anti-retroviral drug Tenofovir could cut the risk of HIV in half among injected drug users, (File photo).
x
Anti-retroviral drug Tenofovir could cut the risk of HIV in half among injected drug users, (File photo).
Anti-retroviral drug Tenofovir could cut the risk of HIV in half among injected drug users, (File photo).
Lisa Schlein
The World Health Organization says early treatment for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can save millions of lives. 

WHO is issuing new treatment guidelines for people infected with HIV as a major international AIDS Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia gets under way.

The World Health Organization reports earlier antiretroviral therapy - ART - could avert an additional 3 million deaths and prevent 3.5 million more new HIV infections between now and 2025.  

WHO says recent evidence indicates that treating people with HIV earlier, with safe, affordable and easier-to-manage medicines will help them live longer, healthier lives. Because the medication lowers the amount of virus in the blood, WHO says this will greatly reduce the risk of transmitting the HIV infection to others.  

Use of lifesaving drugs on the rise

Coordinator of WHO’s HIV-AIDS Department, Gundo Weiler, says 9.7 million people were taking lifesaving antiretroviral drugs at the end of 2012, an amazing increase from the figure of 300,000 10 years ago.  He says the increase in the use of ART drugs is making a huge impact on the lives of individuals and on the AIDS epidemic.

Weiler says, “Over the last decade, the scale-up of antiretroviral treatment in low and middle income countries has averted more than four million deaths-4.2 million deaths exactly-and also, it has averted more than 800,000 infections among children due to the prevention of mother and child transmission…Antiretroviral treatment is not only good for the health of the person who is taking the treatment, but it also reduces the likelihood of transmission.  So, the scale-up of ART has an effect on the HIV epidemic together with all the other prevention efforts.” 

WHO reports 32 million people are living with HIV and 1.7 million people died of AIDS-related causes in 2011.  Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest burden of HIV.  WHO notes treatment coverage has increased in every region of the world, with Africa leading the way.  It says four of five people in sub-Saharan Africa started treatment in 2012.  

While progress is being made, United Nations health officials are concerned that some groups of people who need treatment are not getting it.  It notes fewer children than adults are receiving ART, with only one in three children receiving them.  

They say other groups susceptible to getting the disease, including injecting drug users, men who have sex with men, and sex workers have less access to antiretroviral therapy.  They say it is important to reach these people who are stigmatized and excluded from services.

WHO steps up recommendations

The new WHO recommendations call for antiretroviral therapy to be provided to all children with HIV under five years of age, to pregnant and breastfeeding women with HIV, as well as to all HIV-positive partners where one partner in the relationship is uninfected.

Director of WHO's HIV-AIDS Department, Gottfried Hirnschall, says people starting treatment today have a much easier regimen to follow than in the past. 

“Ten years ago, there were many tablets several times a day," says Hirnschall.  "People started late when they got sick when they started.  We are now at a single tablet, once a day, early in the infection.  That is the new paradigm shift.  It will keep people alive, healthy, for long periods of time and it will also prevent that people can transmit the infection to their partners, to whoever they engage sexually or through other means.” 

Hirnschall says the price of HIV drugs for developing countries has been drastically reduced to an average of $140 per person per year.  The same drug in wealthy countries, he says can run to $10,000 or more a year.

The U.N. health agency recommends a more integrated approach in the treatment of HIV.  It says HIV services should be more closely linked with other health services, such as those for tuberculosis, maternal and child health, sexual and reproductive health, and treatment for drug dependence.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid