WHO: More HIV Infants Need Earlier Therapy

GENEVA, Switzerland, July 20 (UPI) — HIV treatment for children has improved but World Health Organization officials in Switzerland say more lives could be saved if medication began earlier.

“It is encouraging that more children are getting access to HIV treatment, but we have opportunities to do more to promote healthy lives for infants and children,” Dr. Hiroki Nakatani, assistant director-general for HIV, TB, malaria and neglected tropical diseases at WHO, says in a statement.

Currently, few children under age 1 with HIV begin treatment, partly because testing is not available.

Nakatani says expanding the availability of diagnostic testing is a critical need and WHO is calling for greater access to infant diagnosis starting at age 4 weeks to 6 weeks.

“Without diagnosis followed by prompt initiation of treatment, an estimated one-third of HIV-infected infants will die before their first birthday, and about half will die before reaching age 2,” Nakatani says.

WHO officials say 355,000 children received HIV treatment in 2009, compared to 276, 000 at the end of 2008.

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