Increasing coverage of treatment ‘significantly reduces new HIV infections’

Increasing the coverage of HIV treatment from the current level of 50 per cent of those in need of medical care to 75 per cent could reduce the new HIV infections by at least 30 per cent, according to a study conducted in Canada and published last month by The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

The results were based on a mathematical model using a multiple source of infection framework to assess the potential effect of the expansion of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) coverage among those in medical need on the number of individuals HIV-positive and on related costs in Canada over the next 25 years.

The model was calibrated using retrospective data describing the use of antiretroviral therapy and HIV-positive people in the province.

“It’s speculation, it’s a mathematical model and may be the figures can change a bit, but people who is needing treatment needs it now. We are missing the opportunity of saving lives and reducing the transmission”, says to SciDev.Net the Argentinean Julio Montaner, one of the authors of the paper and director of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, as well as elected president of the International Aids Society (IAS).

According to Montaner, even in Canada about 50 per cent of the HIV-positive people start the treatment late or never receive treatment.

In Africa, the implications of the study suggesting the widening of the coverage of HAART was welcomed by Elly Katabira, professor of the Makerere University in Uganda and the incoming president of IAS.

“Most of our patients we initiate on antiretroviral therapy are very sick and some have close to death”, said Katabira in a press conference.

“Sucessful treatment makes them excellent advocates for both treatment and prevention. They would not want themselves or anyone else to be where they have been”, he said.

Luisa Massarani, SciDev.Net/Latin America and the Caribbean

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