The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) welcomes the World Health Organization (WHO)'s new HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention guidelines. For the first time, the 2013 guidelines combine recommendations across the continuum of HIV care and prevention programs, including expanding treatment eligibility for HIV-positive pregnant women, mothers, and children. These recommendations signify a major step forward in the global effort to achieve an AIDS-free generation, but will require a significant shift in current implementation efforts.
"Implementing these new guidelines will require thoughtful leadership and planning" said R.J. Simonds, M.D., vice president of program innovation and policy at EGPAF. "We must listen to the local communities and involve them in the rollout efforts. These guidelines have the opportunity to provide unprecedented access to treatment and prevention measures and reduce HIV/AIDS transmission rates worldwide."
The new guidelines include recommendations to provide lifelong antiretroviral therapy (ART) for all pregnant and breastfeeding women, also known as Option B+, which are expected to improve prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) services and increase the likelihood that infants born to HIV-positive mothers will be born and remain HIV-negative. In addition, lifelong ART has the potential to improve the health and livelihood of HIV-positive mothers and reduce the spread of infection to uninfected partners.
The guidelines also call for expanded pediatric treatment, including immediate initiation of ART for all HIV-positive children younger than five years of age. This new recommendation shines a light on efforts to treat new and existing pediatric HIV infections, a component that is often overlooked in the global HIV/AIDS response.
"Currently, only one in three eligible children living with HIV receives the medicines they need. We hope the new guidelines will focus increased attention and efforts to eliminate this gap," said Laura Guay, M.D., vice president of research at EGPAF.