News Tip: WHO Recommendation on HIV Will Save Lives, Money, Expert Says

On Wednesday, the WHO recommended that everyone who has HIV should immediately be put on antiretroviral triple therapy and everyone at risk of becoming infected should be offered protective doses of similar drugs.Quote: “The World Health Organization just announced that all people living with HIV should be put on antiretroviral triple therapy and everyone at risk of becoming infected should be put on protective therapy. These are ambitious goals that are based on the best evidence available for how to best reduce the spread of the disease as well as reducing illness and death,” says Kathryn Whetten, a Duke University professor of public policy and global health who studies HIV/AIDS.“If all persons eligible were placed on therapy overnight, in many areas, there could be risks overwhelming health systems and not having enough medications and therefore creating drug resistant strands of the HIV virus. However, the World Health Organization predicts that the new recommendations will not results in quick large-scale change because previous changes have demonstrated that people are often slow to change patterns and perceptions of care.”“The costs of such a scale up will be large; however, there will also be cost savings to country health systems. Such aggressive treatment will reduce the number of new infections. Reducing new infections saves treatment costs for HIV treatment and the various infections and conditions that arise from having a compromised immune system.”“In addition, for each case of an averted HIV infection, a person is allowed to live a life that has the potential to be more productive and happier thus benefitting the person, their family, community and society. In addition, for the individual put on treatment early, there will likely be averted hospitalizations and the associated costs. In areas with a high burden of HIV and tuberculosis infections, treating the HIV reduces the new cases of tuberculosis, thus adding additional health care savings. “•    Bio:Kathryn Whetten is a professor of public policy and global health at Duke University. Her work focuses on the understanding of health disparities in the U.S. and around the globe. Currently, Whetten and her team have research projects that address issues surrounding HIV/AIDS, mental health, substance abuse, being orphaned or abandoned, social justice, and poverty in the U.S. South and in less wealthy nations. More at: http://globalhealth.duke.edu/people/faculty/whetten-kathryn. •    For additional comment, contact Kathryn Whetten at:katewhetten@gmail.com.