WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2016

Universal test and treat could expedite HIV eradication in South Africa

Researchers recently concluded that a universal test and treat approach to HIV eradication in South Africa could eliminate the virus approximately 10 years earlier than the current antiretroviral treatment policy.

Head Researcher Jan Hontelez from the University of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, led the international group of researchers. The team used nine mathematical models to calculate how long it would take expanded access to antiretroviral viral therapy to eliminate HIV in South Africa.

Projections concluded that ART, which begins when an individual's white blood cell counts drop below 350 cells per unit of blood, could help eliminate HIV over the next 24 to 34 years.

Hontelez and other researchers, however, concluded that UTT intervention, an annual screening of individuals older than 15 years old, and immediate antiretroviral therapy for all HIV-infected adults would lead to faster eradication of HIV in South Africa.

The most simplistic model predicted that UTT would eliminate HIV in seven years. The more intricate and realistic models, however, predicted elimination at later points in time, with the most comprehensive model predicting that elimination of HIV would be realized approximately 17 years after a widespread UTT policy was administered.

"The case for ART impact on HIV transmission is proven," World Health Organization researchers said. "The priority now is to help translate this concept into benefits for patients and communities by identifying and implementing approaches that work to maximize early HIV testing and ART uptake and long-term retention in care."