'Voluntary annual testing, immediate treatment may slow HIV epidemics'

Geneva- Switzerland (PANA) -- A mathematical model developed by a group of specialists in the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that using annual, universal voluntary HIV testing, followed by immediate Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) - irrespective of clinical stage or CD4 count - reduces new cases by 95% within 10 years.
A statement issued here Wednesday by the WHO said that the findings were published in the UK medical journal Lancet to stimulate discussion, debate and further research.
It quoted the authors of the study as also reporting that the universal voluntary testing followed by immediate ART could have additional public health benefits, including reducing the incidence of tuberculosis and the transmission of HIV from mother to child.
Additionally, the model suggests that there could be a significant reduction of HIV-related morbidity and mortality in resource limited countries with generalized HIV epidemics.
The current WHO policy on treatment involves voluntary testing and clinical and/or immunological evaluation (e.
CD4 count) to determine eligibility for treatment with antiretrovirals.
The authors emphasize the theoretical nature of the exercise based on data and raise a number of concerns regarding feasibility, including the protection of individual rights, drug resistance, toxicity and financing challenges.
The statement said the paper did not signal a change in WHO guidance, adding that WHO-recommended preventive interventions needed to be maintained and expanded.
''This includes male circumcision, partner reduction, correct and consistent use of condoms, and interventions targeting most-at-risk populations, also known as 'combination prevention,' it said.
The statement said WHO would convene a meeting early next year bringing together ethicists, funders, human rights advocates, clinicians, prevention experts and AIDS programme managers to discuss this and other issues related to the wider use of antiretroviral therapy for HIV prevention.

26 november 2008 09:07:00

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