Earlier Treatment for HIV/AIDS

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Life cycle of the AIDS virus. Image by the National Cancer Institute

We now know much more than before about the life cycle of the AIDS virus – and every new bit of information improves available treatments. Image by the National Cancer Institute

Globally, 34.0 million people were living with HIV/AIDS and 1.7 million died due to AIDS-related diseases in 2011, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) – will earlier treatment improve those numbers in the near future?

Since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, there have been multiple changes in the treatment guidelines of HIV and AIDS. The newest change to the guidelines comes from the WHO,  recommending that HIV and AIDS treatment should begin sooner.

This new guideline would avert an additional three million deaths and prevent 3.5 million new infections between now and the year 2025, says the World Health Organization.

New HIV/AIDS Guidelines

Your CD4 cells or T-cells send signals to the immune system when viruses or bacteria have entered the body, and keeping your CD4 count in the normal range helps fight off infections. A normal CD4 count ranges between 500 to 1,000 cells/mm³.

Treatment for HIV/AIDS used to begin when the patient’s CD4 cell count dropped to 350  cells/mm³ or less, but the new guidelines recommend for treatment to begin once CD4 cell counts drops to 500 cells/mm³.  The new guidelines come from finding that treating people with HIV with safe, affordable medications can keep them healthy and lower the amount of virus in their blood, which reduces the risk of passing it onto others.

The new WHO guidelines state that antiretroviral therapy should be given to all children with HIV under the age of five, and all pregnant and breastfeeding women.

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