World Health Organisation guideline changes will transform HIV treatment


The World Health Organisation has revised its guidelines on HIV treatment and has recommended that every HIV positive person should be treated immediately regardless of their CD4 count.

A persons CD4 count measures the number of CD4 cells in a sample of blood. In people with HIV, this count is used as an indicator of how well your immune system is working. The CD4 count of an uninfected adult ranges from 500 cells/mm3 to 1,200 cells/mm3. Previously, WHO guidelines recommended treatment to begin once a person who was living with HIV CD4 count fell below 500 cells/mm3. Now, WHO recommends that treatment should begin as soon as a HIV diagnosis is made. This expanded eligibility for treatment is supported by findings from clinical trials which confirm that early use of treatment keeps people living with HIV healthier and reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to others.

WHO also recommends that people at substantial risk of contracting HIV should be offered preventive antiretroviral treatment (PrEP). Who is considered at ‘substantial risk’ has not been explicitly defined but it is thought to include some men who have sex with men, transgender women and hetero sexual men and women who have sexual partners with undiagnosed or untreated HIV infection.

Based on the new recommendations, the number of people eligible for antiretroviral treatment increases from 28 million to all 37 million people who currently live with HIV globally.