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New WHO Guidelines On HIV Treatment Offer Opportunities, Challenges

Writing in a Lancet opinion piece, Kenneth Mayer of Harvard Medical School and Chris Beyrer, director of the Johns Hopkins Fogarty AIDS International Training and Research Program and Center for Public Health & Human Rights, discuss the opportunities and challenges presented by the WHO’s revised HIV treatment guidelines recommending “earlier initiation of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART),” released earlier this month at the International AIDS Society (IAS) conference. Mayer and Beyrer discuss the details of the new guidelines, writing, “The social and economic implications of the revised guidelines are substantial.” They continue, “The public health benefits of expanded treatment are predicated on expectations that if more people are virologically suppressed they will transmit fewer HIV infections, which would result in lower costs in the long run as the epidemic contracts.” Mayer and Beyrer conclude, “Thoughtful discussion is needed about the optimum ways to implement WHO’s new HIV guidelines. … [T]he challenges now are to identify, and effectively use, the new resources needed to realize our common goal of eventual control of the HIV pandemic” (7/27).