Over five mn people receiving HIV treatment: WHO

July 20th, 2010 - 8:02 am ICT by IANS  

Vienna, July 20 (IANS) The number of people across the world receiving treatment in 2009 for HIV has reached 5.2 million, a rise of around 1.2 million from the previous year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.
“This is the largest increase in people accessing treatment in a single year. It is an extremely encouraging development,” Hiroki Nakatani, WHO assistant director-general for HIV, Tuberculosis, Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases, was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

Between 2003 and 2010, the number of patients receiving anti-retroviral treatment increased twelve-fold, resulting in millions of lives saved, according to the Geneva-based international body.

The latest number was released during the 18th International AIDS Conference, which kicked off here Sunday and will last till Friday.

“Starting treatment earlier gives us an opportunity to enable people living with HIV to stay healthier and live longer,” Gottfried Hirnschall, WHO director of HIV/AIDS, said.

Earlier treatment can prevent opportunistic infections, including tuberculosis (TB), the number one killer of people with HIV, he said.

The strength of a person’s immune system is measured by CD4 cells. A healthy person has a CD4 count of 1,000 to 1,500 cells per cubic mm. WHO previously recommended starting HIV treatment when a person’s CD4 count drops below 200 cells per cubic mm but now advises starting HIV treatment at 350 cells per cubic mm or below.

The cost needed for HIV treatment in 2010 will be about $9 billion, according to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

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