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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More