WHO Pushes to End HIV/AIDS Pandemic
HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, and what it turns into, AIDS, the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, are the leading killers in the global world. Around 34 million people are infected with HIV and 97 percent of them reside in Africa, according to AIDS.gov. Since the discovery of HIV/AIDS around the 1980s in the United States, researchers and health experts have been trying to find a cure. Although there is still no cure for this deadly infection, due to research, there are good treatment options and preventative measures for. Now, the World Health Organization (WHO) has proposed a new set of guidelines for doctors treating HIV positive patients. WHO believes that these new guidelines could save three million more lives by 2025.
According to WHO, treating HIV positive patients as early as possible could extend life expectancy and improve overall quality of life. The guidelines state that all countries should aim for the goal of 80 percent treatment, meaning that this portion of the total number of global cases, which is 26 million people, should ideally be treated with antiretroviral treatment. HIV/AIDS drug treatments have become more and more accessible due to the production of cheaper generic versions. With more patients being able to acquire these forms of treatment, WHO believes that this new goal could be achieved.
"We are raising the bar to 26 million people, " the WHO's HIV/AIDS department director, Gottfried Hirnschall said according to Reuters. "And this is not only about keeping people healthy and alive but also about blocking further transmission of HIV."
Based from these new guidelines, WHO wants doctors to treat HIV patients immediately after a test reveals that their CD4 cell count drops under 500 cells per cubic milliliter. Previous recommendations had the cell count set at 350 or less. CD4 levels determine when HIV starts to damage the immune system. Aside from this new number, the agency recommends that all pregnant women and children under five-years-old who have the virus get treatment regardless of their CD4 count.
These new guidelines will ideally continue lowering the number of deaths resulting from this infection. According to the United Nations AIDS program, UNAIDS, from 2005 to 2011, the number of deaths dropped from 2.3 million to 1.7 million. With more people receiving treatment than ever before, WHO plans on getting HIV/AIDS on the "irreversible decline" route.
"With nearly 10 million people on antiretroviral therapy, we see that such prospects - unthinkable just a few years ago - can now fuel the momentum needed to push the HIV epidemic into irreversible decline," Margaret Chan, WHO's director general, said in a statement.
These guidelines could potentially help stop the HIV/AIDS pandemic.