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Last updated at 18:02 GMT, Monday, 30 November 2009

New guidelines for fighting HIV

Summary

30 November 2009

Ahead of tomorrow's World Aids Day, the World Health Organisation has issued new guidelines for HIV treatment which would significantly increase the number of patients receiving anti-retroviral drugs.

Reporter:
Madeleine Morris

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At the moment, four million people around the world receive anti-retroviral drugs. There's another five million who need them but don't get them.

The WHO recommendations on when to start treatment for HIV would mean an extra three to five million people would be added to that waiting list. The WHO wants people who have HIV to start drugs before their immune systems get so weak they start displaying symptoms. A study recently published in the medical journal The Lancet showed starting treatment at the newly recommended level could increase survival by nearly 70%.

It would also add significantly to the cost on health care systems. In South Africa, which has one of the biggest HIV burdens in the world, currently fewer than half of the people who should be receiving HIV drugs get them.

Poor health infrastructure is a common problem for nearly all developing countries. Putting HIV-positive people on drugs earlier would significantly reduce the cost to health systems of treating opportunistic infections - illnesses which take hold while the immune system is weak. It would also greatly improve life expectancy of HIV patients, with repercussions for families and the workforce.

The WHO is still working out how much it would cost countries to improve their treatment regimes, but it won't be cheap.

Madeleine Morris, BBC News

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Vocabulary

anti-retroviral drugs

medications for the treatment of infections caused by HIV (short for human immunodeficiency virus) and other retroviruses, i.e. viruses that 'implant', or incorporate their genetic code into host cells resulting in serious, sometimes fatal diseases

an extra three to five million people would be added to that waiting list

three to five more million people infected by HIV would now be considered for treatment (a waiting list is a list of people who are waiting for something that is not available straight away)

displaying symptoms

feeling and/or showing signs of an illness or another disorder (e.g. pain or fever)

add significantly to the cost on

require a lot more money to be given to and spent by

which has one of the biggest HIV burdens in the world

where the number and proportion of HIV infected people is one of the world's highest

HIV-positive people

people who carry HIV but do not necessarily develop Aids

opportunistic infections

diseases caused by bacteria which occur when someone's immune system, i.e. the body's ability to fight infection, is weakened

greatly improve life expectancy of

give a much better chance of living longer to

repercussions

consequences, results

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