WHO: HIV-infected should start treatment earlier

It is estimated that 5.2 million people worldwide are now receiving treatment for AIDS (ARVs) that could save their lives.

But more lives can be saved and the infection rate reduced if treatment start earlier according to the World Health Organisation WHO.

Compared to the total number of HIV-infected. assumed to be at least 33 million, the 5.2 million is far from enough. But it is 12 times as many as in 2003, when WHO launched a special effort against HIV. In 2008 there were 4 million infected in ARV treatment.

WHO now recommends that treatment is started even before the immune system is weakened and HIV develops into AIDS.

” An earlier treatment allows people to live healthier and longer with HIV,” said Dr. Gottfried Hirnschall, Head of WHO’s program on HIV / AIDS.

According to WHO, it would be possible to reduce AIDS mortality by 20 percent between 2010 and 2015 if these guidelines for early intervention is implemented.

Early treatment will also make it possible to prevent many infections, including tuberculosis (TB), which is the leading cause of deaths among people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA).

According to WHO deaths from TB can be reduced by as much as 90 percent if people with both HIV and TB gets treatment earlier.

‘In addition to saving lives, the earlier treatment also helps in terms of prevention. The treatment reduces the level of virus in the organism, and this means that HIV-positive people are less likely to infect their partners with the virus.

WHO guidelines will expand the number of people who should be on ARVs from 10 to 15 million.

The AIDS epidemic was discovered in 1980/81. In the first 14 to 15 years there was no effective treatment and an AIDS diagnosis was basically equal to a death sentence.

The big breakthrough in the fight against HIV and AIDS came with the introduction of combination therapies (ARVs) in the mid-1990s. Several different drugs used simultaneously were found to have a good effect.

The change was so great that AIDS in large parts of the western world was transformed from a deadly disease to a life-long infection.

But the HIV treatment is expensive and it requires both money and a relatively well-organized health system to establish and maintain lifelong treatments against HIV and AIDS.

It is still my hope that one day ARVs will be available to everyone who needs it.

HIV and AIDS in numbers

In 2008 two million people died worldwide of AIDS. It’s more than 166,000 men, women and children a month. Or 5479 deaths every day.

The UN estimates that 2.7 million people became infected with HIV in 2008. This corresponds to 225,000 every month – or nearly 7,400 new infections every day or just over five every minute.

Worldwide 33.4 million people are infected with HIV. That’s why I still work in this field!

Shun meat, says UN climate chief

By, Richard Black, BBC News, September 7, 2008

People should consider eating less meat as a way of combating global warming, says the UN’s top climate scientist.

Rajendra Pachauri, who chairs the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), will make the call at a speech in London on Monday evening.

UN figures suggest that meat production puts more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than transport.

But a spokeswoman for the UK’s National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said methane emissions from farms were declining.

Dr Pachauri has just been re-appointed for a second six-year term as chairman of the Nobel Prize-winning IPCC, the body that collates and evaluates climate data for the world’s governments.

“The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that direct emissions from meat production account for about 18% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions,” he told BBC News.

“So I want to highlight the fact that among options for mitigating climate change, changing diets is something one should consider.”

Climate of persuasion

The FAO figure of 18% includes greenhouse gases released in every part of the meat production cycle – clearing forested land, making and transporting fertiliser, burning fossil fuels in farm vehicles, and the front and rear end emissions of cattle and sheep.

The contributions of the three main greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – are roughly equivalent, the FAO calculates.

Transport, by contrast, accounts for just 13% of humankind’s greenhouse gas footprint, according to the IPCC.

Dr Pachauri will be speaking at a meeting organised by Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), whose main reason for suggesting people lower their consumption of meat is to reduce the number of animals in factory farms.

CIWF’s ambassador Joyce D’Silva said that thinking about climate change could spur people to change their habits.

“The climate change angle could be quite persuasive,” she said.

“Surveys show people are anxious about their personal carbon footprints and cutting back on car journeys and so on; but they may not realise that changing what’s on their plate could have an even bigger effect.”

Side benefits

There are various possibilities for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with farming animals.

They range from scientific approaches, such as genetically engineering strains of cattle that produce less methane flatus, to reducing the amount of transport involved through eating locally reared animals.

“The NFU is committed to ensuring farming is part of the solution to climate change, rather than being part of the problem,” an NFU spokeswoman told BBC News.

“We strongly support research aimed at reducing methane emissions from livestock farming by, for example, changing diets and using anaerobic digestion.”

Methane emissions from UK farms have fallen by 13% since 1990.

But the biggest source globally of carbon dioxide from meat production is land clearance, particularly of tropical forest, which is set to continue as long as demand for meat rises.

Ms D’Silva believes that governments negotiating a successor to the Kyoto Protocol ought to take these factors into account.

“I would like governments to set targets for reduction in meat production and consumption,” she said.

“That’s something that should probably happen at a global level as part of a negotiated climate change treaty, and it would be done fairly, so that people with little meat at the moment such as in sub-Saharan Africa would be able to eat more, and we in the west would eat less.”

Dr Pachauri, however, sees it more as an issue of personal choice.

“I’m not in favour of mandating things like this, but if there were a (global) price on carbon perhaps the price of meat would go up and people would eat less,” he said.

“But if we’re honest, less meat is also good for the health, and would also at the same time reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.”

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7600005.stm