Dr Gottfried Hirnschall speaks on expanding HIV testing and the use of ARVs for treatment and prevention

At the XIX International AIDS Conference, July 2012, USA
IAS/Steve Shapiro

26 July 2012

In his plenary speech at the XIX International AIDS Conference, WHO’s Director of the HIV Department, Dr Gottfried Hirnschall confirms the world’s optimism to achieve the target to deliver antiretroviral treatment to 15 million people by 2015. He also highlights the need for thinking beyond this target emphasizing the importance of earlier testing, improved retention and strategic use of antiretrovirals in view of ending the epidemic.

His statement in the official press release of the International AIDS Society (IAS) includes the following:

“Just over half the people requiring ART globally can currently access it, but for every person who starts ART, another two become infected. The WHO argues that applying new knowledge about the clinical and preventive benefits of antiretroviral treatment is critical to addressing this gap. This means, for example, providing ART to HIV-positive partners in serodiscordant couples, HIV-positive pregnant women and key populations, both to keep infected people well and to reduce transmission.

Providing ART to more people earlier in the course of infection will inevitably increase the numbers of people eligible for ART. Current approaches to scale up access to ART will therefore not be sufficient. Forward-looking policies, innovative approaches to service delivery and further investments in the systems needed to support larger numbers of people on ART will be required.

The resource implications of current policy shifts to expand access to ART cannot be ignored. Modelling work done to date shows that frontloading of investments in ART in the next five years should lead to cost-savings in the medium- to long-term, as well as sizable societal benefits in terms of infections averted and productivity maintained.”