The World Health Organisation has announced its updated treatment guidelines for HIV, in particular two key recommendations that could have major implications for countries affected by the disease.
(Also read our article: South Africa exceeds UN Millenium Development Goals for reversing HIV spread)
The first one is ‘Test and Treat’, which recommends putting all HIV positive people on antiretroviral treatment as soon as they are diagnosed, as opposed to waiting until their immune system weakens - as is currently the case.
The second recommendation is that the daily oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PreP) be made available for those at high-risk from contracting HIV as part of combination prevention approaches.
According Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, South Africa's progressive HIV/AIDS programmes will ease the additional pressure that the current health system could face from these changes.
Listen to the full conversation from CapeTalk's Breakfast with Kieno Kammies:
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) applauded the decision, but cautioned that implementation may have some limitations and face significant challenges, particularly in South Africa.
According to Dr Gilles Van Cutsem, head of mission in SA and Lesotho at MSF, the recommendations will mean that people on treatment will more than double the current total.
It is a big deal because it dramatically changes the number of people who are eligible for HIV treatment. Today, we have around 15 million people on antiretroviral therapy in the world. But this decision means that the total 37 million living with HIV in the world must be on treatment.— Dr. Gilles Van Cutsem, Head of mission in SA and Lesotho at MSF
MSF started providing HIV treatment to people in developing countries in 2000, and today more than 200 000 people receive treatment through MSF programmes.