Post submitted by Noël Gordon, former HRC Senior Program Specialist for HIV Prevention and Health Equity.

In a landmark change, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced today that people living with HIV worldwide should begin treatment as soon as possible, and that anyone at “substantial risk” for contracting HIV should be offered the use of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a once-daily pill regimen that can prevent HIV. These guidelines, if formally adopted by WHO member countries, could have an enormously positive impact on the communities most heavily affected by HIV, including LGBT people.

The WHO’s new “treat-all” recommendation comes on the heels of recent findings from the Strategic Timing of AntiRetroviral Treatment study, which found that people living with HIV are considerably less likely to develop AIDS or experience other negative health outcomes if they begin treatment as soon as possible. The WHO’s new treatment guidelines means that all populations and age groups are now eligible to receive antiretroviral medications (ARVs), expanding the number of people living with HIV who should be on ARVs from 28 million to all 37 million.

The WHO also announced a major change to its HIV prevention guidelines, recommending that anyone at “substantial risk” of contracting HIV be offered the use of PrEP. In July 2013, the WHO issued PrEP guidance that focused primarily on men who have sex with men and people in serodiscordant relationships - those in which one partner is HIV-positive, and the other is HIV-negative. Now, the international public health agency says the pool of potential candidates should include transgender women, heterosexual men and women who have sex with people whose HIV statuses are unknown, among others.

“The significance of today’s announcement cannot be overstated,” said Tari Hanneman, Deputy Director of the Health and Aging Program and the HRC Foundation. “Simply put, millions more people - including LGBT people all over the world - will be eligible to receive life-changing medications whether for HIV prevention or treatment. With these expanded guidelines, we are one step closer to bringing about an AIDS-free generation both in the United States and around the globe.”

According to UNAIDS estimates, expanding antiretroviral medications to all people living with HIV and expanding prevention choices can help avert 21 million AIDS-related deaths and 28 million new infections by 2030.

HRC is committed to working with our allies, partners, members, and supporters to end the HIV epidemic and the stigma surrounding HIV. Click here to learn more.

Filed under: Health & Aging, HIV & AIDS

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