New HIV Guidelines launched

Malawi has said it will adopt new HIV guidelines which have been launched by World Health Organisation WHO by April next year.

The guidelines include the test and treat strategy which says anyone diagnosed with HIV will immediately start taking life saving ARV drugs unlike in the past when people would wait for their immune system to become weak.

Malawi’s National Strategic Plan for HIV last year included the plan to adopt the ‘’Test and Treat’’ strategy and funding has been secured to scale up treatment in line with the new approach.

A statement by MSF says by adopting the “Test and Treat” strategy,Malawi has the opportunity to significantly impact on improving the health of people living with HIV as well as introducing a powerful new tool to reduce the spread of the virus.

“ARV treatment acts as prevention, because people on effective treatment have close to zero risk of transmitting the virus to others,” the statement says.

Dr Reinaldo Ortuno, MSF’s Medical Coordinator explains that this is not the first time that Malawi has been one of the first countries to adapt their HIV guidelines saying that it has shown itself to be a country that embraces innovative strategies in its HIV response, such as Option B+ as a means to help prevent HIV+ mothers infecting their babies.

In an interview with this radio Deputy Medical Coordinator for Medicines Sans Frontiers Mr Kelvin Phiri applauded WHO for the new guidelines.

Phiri said experience from MSF’s HIV programs around the world, shows that over the last ten years, one third of people who were diagnosed with HIV, but who were not eligible to start treatment, never returned to the health facility.With the new ‘’’Test and Treat” strategy, where individuals are offered treatment as soon as they test positive, the number of people who are lost can be significantly reduced.

He said at the United Nations last week world leaders agreed to a Sustainable Development Goal to make AIDS history within fifteen years, but they are going to need to show that they’re serious about it. Nobody’s going to end AIDS with business as usual.

Dr.Ortuno says in Malawi, nearly 400,000 HIV positive people don’t even know they’re infected therefore Test and treat can turn the tide on HIV.

“As tool to control the epidemic it will require drastic changes and greatly increased investment including in more human resources, with HIV care moving out of clinics and into the communities with mobilized, empowered as well as engaged people living with HIV that actually are part of the response,”Dr Ortuno explains

He said this will need effort and money.

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