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How to put skids under HIV

21 July 2015 - 02:05 By Katharine Child

South Africans with HIV should be put on treatment immediately when they are diagnosed with the virus to drastically reduce the risk of infecting others. The final results of the HPTN 052 study were released last night at the 2015 International Aids Conference in Vancouver, Canada.The study included a number of HIV-positive South Africans and showed that being on treatment led to a 93 % less chance of transmitting the virus to an HIV-negative partner. The study began in 2005 and discordant couples - when one partner is HIV-positive and the other HIV-negative - were recruited from nine countries.In half of the couples, the HIV-positive partner was given antiretrovirals immediately.In the other half, the positive partner was not given treatment until his or her CD4 count dropped below 250.In 2011, after ARVs were shown to work as prevention, every positive individual was given them and couples tracked until this year."This study, tracking 1171 couples, shows treatment of positive people is a sustained and lasting way to stop transmission of the virus to negative individuals," said South African researcher Dr Francesca Conradie."It shows that if enough people are on ARVs, we will stop transmission and we can turn around the epidemic."Doctor and health economist Gesine Meyer-Rath, who works with the Wits Health Economics and Epidemiology Research Office, said giving ARVs to all HIV-positive patients would not be as expensive as some believe, but the country's health system, especially drug supply chain management, would need to be fixed first."To have 90% of the 6.4million South Africans on treatment by 2020 would require an increase of the Aids budget by about 20% to 30%.This will cost an additional R35-billion compared with R157-billion if we only give ARVs to people with a CD4 count below 500."HIV is costly and will continue to cost more every year."Putting more people on ARVs is actually one of the few ways to start bringing these costs down because of the impact on transmission," Meyer-Rath said.Asked if South Africa would make ARVs available to anyone who tested HIV-positive, Department of Health deputy director Yogan Pillay said the department was waiting for new World Health Organisation guidelines on treating HIV-positive people to be released in December before changing the eligibility criteria.Wits Professor Ian Sanne said the implication of the work was that "South Africa must treat HIV-positive people immediately, regardless of their CD4 count"...

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