[Ip-health] MSF welcomes WHO HIV guidelines + MSF at the IAS

Joanna Keenan-Siciliano joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Mon Jul 1 01:52:26 PDT 2013

Visit the MSF at the IAS website, http://www.msf-seasia.org/ias2013, for
information, reports and materials that MSF will release this week at the
IAS 2013 conference in Kuala Lumpur, including this video on treating HIV
in Myanmar:  http://www.msfaccess.org/content/treating-hivaids-myanmar

MSF responds to the release of WHO's updated HIV treatment guidelines,

MSF applauds new WHO recommendations for accelerating HIV treatment in
developing countries


Kuala Lumpur,30 June 2013—The international medical humanitarian
organisation Médecins Sans Frontières/ Doctors Without Borders (MSF) today
welcomed new World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for HIV treatment
and called for the improvements to be rapidly implemented, enabling people
and programme outcomes in developing countries to benefit. MSF also
stressed that increased international support will be needed.
WHO recommendations include earlier antiretroviral therapy (ART) for people
living with HIV, improved protocols to prevent HIV from being transmitted
from mother to child, and regular and more effective monitoring of people’s
‘viral load’ to ensure treatment is working.

“Early HIV treatment makes a major difference – it keeps people healthier
and also helps prevent the virus from spreading within communities, but we
need the political and financial support to see these recommendations
rolled out rapidly,” said Dr. Unni Karunakara, International President of

Use of ‘viral load’ monitoring to ensure antiretroviral medicines are
keeping the virus suppressed is another critical advance in the
recommendations. Viral load works best when linked to robust adherence
support, and shows multiple benefits for patients and treatment providers

“There’s no greater motivating factor for people to stick to their HIV
treatment than knowing the virus is ‘undetectable’ in their blood,” said
Dr. Gilles van Cutsem, MSF’s Medical Coordinator in South Africa. “Viral
load testing is the optimal way of maintaining people on first-line
treatment and knowing when to switch them to second-line drugs, so it’s
high time it’s made available in countries with a heavy burden of disease.
With these new guidelines our collective goal should now be to scale up
without messing up: to reach more people, retain them on treatment, and
with an undetectable viral load.”

With the new WHO guidelines, the number of people now eligible for
treatment will rise substantially.

“These new treatment recommendations are ambitious, and needed; they’re
also feasible,” said Dr. Karunakara. “Now is not the time to be daunted,
but to push forward with what we know works to get the best treatment
possible to the most people, as soon as possible. Countries should
implement these new WHO guidelines and accelerate treatment without delay,
so it’s critical to mobilise international support to enable them to do so,
including funding for HIV treatment programmes from donor governments and
the Global Fund."

Donor agencies such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria and
the US government’s PEPFAR programme must support the swift implementation
of the new guidelines as a strategic priority. The Global Fund is holding
its three-year replenishment conference later this year, where donor
commitments should reflect the increased treatment targets.

MSF’s experience treating HIV in developing countries since 2000 has shown
that, through adapted treatment delivery strategies – combined with
supportive policies – scale-up of quality care to large numbers of people
is feasible. Drugs must be easy to take and affordable; treatment
monitoring is essential and must be coupled with effective counselling for
people with problems adhering to treatment; and people must be empowered
and encouraged to take on a larger role in the management of their care.
For example, one strategy MSF piloted in Mozambique in order to simplify
care and help people stick to their treatment has been to form small
patient groups, with a different group member going for a check-up each
month and getting a medicine refill for the whole group. This model not
only simplifies care for people but also frees up health staff time to
focus on more critical cases.

But through its work, MSF is also confronted with many of the people who
continue to be locked out of treatment, and special attention must be paid
to ensuring these countries are not left behind.

“In places like the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of
Congo, Guinea and Myanmar, it’s like the clock stopped over ten years ago,
with shamefully high numbers of people dying because they cannot obtain
treatment. There’s also a need to increase coverage of vulnerable
populations like the rural poor in high prevalence countries,” said Dr. van
Cutsem. “The international community must not allow the neglect of people
in need of HIV treatment to continue in contexts of instability, where
systems are weak or where the political will is lacking.”

- ends –

MSF currently provides HIV treatment to 285,000 people in 21 countries.

Joanna Keenan
Press Officer
Médecins Sans Frontières - Access Campaign
P: +41 22 849 87 45
M: +41 79 203 13 02
E: joanna.keenan[at]geneva.msf.org
T: twitter.com/joanna_keenan


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