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ART As Part Of HIV Prevention Strategy Supported By WHO

“AIDS drugs should be given to all who need them to reduce new infections, the World Health Organization said,” following a three-day meeting on the topic of using antiretroviral therapy (ART) to help prevent the spread of HIV, Bloomberg reports. “Providing more antiretroviral drugs ‘will achieve a significant transmission benefit,’ Teguest Guerma, interim director of the WHO’s AIDS department, said … ‘In the past, there has been a false dichotomy between prevention and treatment. …’That is really what has been corrected. Prevention and treatment are two faces of the same coin'” (Bennett, 11/5).

The meeting provided the opportunity for health experts to “review scientific data available on the use of ART for prevention,” examine “the implications of this approach for individuals and communities,” and evaluate “human rights and ethical and public health implications” of such an approach, according to a UNAIDS press release. “UNAIDS strongly recommend[s] a comprehensive package of HIV prevention approaches and advocates for an evidence informed and human rights based approach to HIV prevention,” according to the release (11/6).

The meeting came after a Lancet study “last year suggested the spread of HIV in hard-hit African nations could be cut by 95 percent in a decade if everyone was tested and those found to be infected were treated immediately,” Bloomberg writes. Last week, researchers presented an article in Nature Precedings challenging the assumptions made in the Lancet study, according to Bloomberg. “Even under optimistic assumptions we find elimination to be unlikely,” the researchers said in their paper. “Achieving a very high treatment rate would reduce transmission substantially, but not enough to achieve elimination.”

“The so-called ‘test and treat’ strategy may involve millions more people getting treatment in nations already struggling to get drugs to those who need them,” the news service writes. “At least 5 million people with HIV in poorer nations don’t have access to the medicines out of 9 million who need them, the WHO said in a Sept. 30 report” (11/5).

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