GENEVA, May 13 – A new finding by the United States National Institutes of Health has revealed that if an HIV-positive person adheres to an effective antiretroviral therapy regimen, the risk of transmitting the virus to their uninfected sexual partner can be reduced by 96 percent.
The study shows that the reduction of sexual transmission of HIV was so significant that the trial was stopped three to four years ahead of schedule.
The trial, conducted by the HIV Prevention Trials Network, enrolled more than 1,700 sero-discordant couples where one partner was HIV-positive and the other HIV-negative in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the United States of America.
Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS Michel Sidibé described the revelation as a breakthrough that will drive the prevention revolution forward.
“Now we need to make sure that couples have the option to choose Treatment for Prevention and have access to it,” he said. “It makes HIV treatment a new priority prevention option.”
He explained that only people living with a CD4 cell count of between 350 and 550 were enrolled in the study.
World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan emphasized that this was a crucial development since sexual transmission accounts for about 80 percent of all new infections.
"The findings from this study will further strengthen and support the new guidance that WHO is releasing in July to help people living with HIV protect their partners." she said.
She said that the availability of Treatment for Prevention will not only empower people to get tested for HIV, but also to disclose their HIV status and discuss HIV prevention options with their partners but will also significantly contribute to reducing the stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV.
“People living with HIV can now, with dignity and confidence, take additional steps to protect their loved ones from HIV,” she said.
It is currently estimated that only about half of the 33 million people living with HIV know their HIV status.
The WHO Director General said that an increase in the uptake of testing for HIV would have a significant impact on the AIDS response, particularly if more people gain access to treatment in light of the new findings.
She said that the new WHO guidelines coming out in July will help countries to make this a reality for people who choose to use this new HIV prevention option.
She explained that to increase access to the Treatment for Prevention option, the Treatment 2.0 initiative must be urgently implemented to innovate, simplify, reduce costs and mobilize communities to scale up HIV testing and counseling and treatment.
UNAIDS will convene a partners meeting to further discuss this new development and its implications for the AIDS response.
This builds on a series of expert consultations which have been convened by UNAIDS and WHO on Treatment for Prevention during the last two years.