Use of antiretroviral drugs for treating pregnant women and preventing HIV infection in infants
Recent developments suggest that substantial clinical and programmatic advantages can come from adopting a single, universal regimen both to treat HIV-infected pregnant women and to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. This streamlining should maximize PMTCT programme performance through better alignment and linkages with antiretroviral therapy (ART) programmes at every level of service delivery. One of WHO’s two currently recommended PMTCT antiretroviral (ARV) programme options, Option B, takes this unified approach.
Now a new, third option (Option B+) proposes further evolution—not only providing the same triple ARV drugs to all HIV-infected pregnant women beginning in the antenatal clinic setting but also continuing this therapy for all of these women for life. Important advantages of Option B+ include: further simplification of regimen and service delivery and harmonization with ART programmes, protection against mother-to-child transmission in future pregnancies, a continuing prevention benefit against sexual transmission to serodiscordant partners, and avoiding stopping and starting of ARV drugs.
While these benefits need to be evaluated in programme settings, and systems and support requirements need careful consideration, this is an appropriate time for countries to start assessing their situation and experience to make optimal programmatic choices.