Health topics

Antiretroviral therapy


Use of antiretrovirals for treatment and prevention of HIV infection

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) consists of the combination of at least three antiretroviral drugs to maximally suppress the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). ART prevents both, the progression of HIV disease and transmission of the virus. Huge reductions in the rates of death and suffering when use is made of a potent treatment regimen, particularly in early stages of the disease. ART also has the potential to reduce the risk of HIV transmission and deaths in people who are co-infected with tuberculosis or hepatitis B.

Since 2013, WHO recommends starting ART irrespective of clinical and immunological staging for the prevention of HIV transmission among couples where one person is infected and one is not. Immediate ART may particularly benefit HIV-infected pregnant women by preventing transmission from mother-to-child during pregnancy, delivery and breast-feeding, as well as sexual transmission between partners.

WHO is working to improve access to HIV treatment in developing countries by optimizing drugs and diagnostics, and service delivery.

Based on statistics from the end of 2012, 310 000 people in the Western Pacific Region were receiving ART. This represents 53% of those in need.