WHO releases treatment guidelines for tackling AIDS in poor countries
In a bid to strengthen action against AIDS in developing countries, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) today announced the first guidelines for treating the disease in poor settings.
The agency said this action, combined with its decision to include AIDS drugs in its Essential Medicines List, could help dramatically increase access to treatment in low-income States - where the vast majority of AIDS patients live - over the coming years.
Currently, only 5 per cent of the nearly 6 million people living with HIV/AIDS who need antiretroviral medicines (ARVs) have access to them. WHO predicted that at least 3 million people in need of care should be able to get medicines by 2005 - a more than 10-fold increase.
"The new treatment guidelines and the designation of ARVs as essential are vital steps in the battle against the AIDS pandemic," said WHO Director-General Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland. "They should encourage both industrialized and developing country governments to make HIV treatment more widely available."
The new guidelines propose a standardized and simplified combination of ARV therapy as well as information on how to avoid side effects.
"The antiretroviral treatment guidelines developed by WHO will greatly assist governments and national AIDS programmes in providing people living with HIV/AIDS with greater access to these life-saving medicines," said Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
Current estimates suggest that 40 million people worldwide are infected with HIV - over 90 per cent of them in the developing world. According to WHO, ARVs have greatly helped the roughly 1.5 million people living with HIV in high-income countries, such as the United States, where the introduction of triple combination therapy in 1996 led to 70 per cent decline in deaths attributable to HIV/AIDS.