The international community will face “an enormous challenge” if HIV patients receive anti-retroviral drugs at an earlier stage, it has been warned.
For the first time ever, new guidelines from the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommend that breast feeding mothers or their babies take the drugs to prevent the disease being passed on.
But the new move would “significantly increase the demand for treatment”, said International Development Minister Mike Foster.
WHO now recommends that the drugs are started before their immune system strength falls below 350 cells/mm3 regardless of whether patients show symptoms.
It also wants to see the phasing out of the drug Stavudine, which is widely used in developing countries due to its low cost and widespread availability.
They recommend instead Zidovudine or Tenofovir which do not have the same long-term and irreversible side effects.
Daisy Mafubelu, WHO’s assistant director general for family and community health, said: “In the new recommendations, we are sending a clear message that breastfeeding is a good option for every baby, even those with HIV-positive mothers, when they have access to ARVs.”
Copyright Press Association 2009
World Health Organisation