MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2016

U.N. says record number of HIV-infected individuals access antiretroviral treatment

Close to 10 million people living with HIV accessed antiretroviral treatment in 2012, marking the most dramatic increase from one year to another ever, the U.N. said on Saturday.

The Joint U.N. Programme on HIV/AIDS, the U.N. Children's Fund and the World Health Organization released a report on Saturday that showed the number of people accessing antiretroviral treatment grew by 1.6 million from 2011 to 2012. The report noted that even more people could be reached with intelligent planning.

The WHO issued new guidelines with the report that provide clear recommendations for people living with HIV to start antiretroviral therapy much earlier, even right away in some cases.

"These guidelines represent another leap ahead in a trend of ever-higher goals and ever-greater achievements," Margaret Chan, the WHO's director-general, said. "With nearly 10 million people now 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."

The guidelines recommend that ART be provided to all children with HIV under five years of age, all HIV-positive partners where one partner in the relationship is uninfected and all breastfeeding and pregnant women with HIV.

"Advances like these allow children and pregnant women to access treatment earlier and more safely, and move us closer to our goal of an AIDS-free generation," Anthony Lake, the executive director of UNICEF, said. "Now, we must accelerate our efforts, investing in innovations that allow us to test new born babies faster and giving them the appropriate treatment so that they enjoy the best possible start in life."

The new guidance would add an additional 9.2 million eligible people from the previous 2010 guidelines.

The U.N. estimates that if all recommendations in the new guidelines are implemented, they would result in preventing 13.5 million deaths and 19 million new HIV infections by the year 2025.