If properly adhered, treatments started at earlier stages of HIV infection will keep patients’ viral loads lower for much longer, thereby lowering the level of infectiousness and reducing the risks of onward transmission and new HIV infections.
The guidelines also recommend that Member States step up efforts to encourage people to undergo voluntary HIV testing and counselling to help them with early detection and treatment.
Another landmark document developed by WHO is the revised guidance on antiretroviral drugs for treating pregnant women and preventing HIV infections in infants, wherein, for the first time, virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission was considered a realistic public health goal and a key part of the campaign to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. These detailed guidelines set the international standards for Member States to adapt to their local settings. The 2010 revised recommendations are based on two different key approaches:
- lifelong ART for HIV-infected women in need of treatment for their own health, which is also safe and effective in reducing mother-to-child transmission; and
- antiretroviral prophylaxis to prevent mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding for HIV-infected women not in need of treatment.