WHO Releases HIV Guidance and Updates at IAS 2023

New scientific and normative guidance on HIV has been released by the World Health Organization (WHO) at the 12th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Science.The guidance emphasizes the importance of HIV viral suppression and undetectable virus levels in improving individual health and preventing onward transmission of HIV. Achieving an undetectable viral load through consistent use of antiretroviral therapy significantly reduces the risk of transmitting HIV to sexual partners and vertically to children. The guidance also highlights the need to address the low rate of viral load suppression in children living with HIV.

The conference also presented other key updates, including the association between mpox (monkeypox) outbreaks and HIV status and the persistent high risk of death in people living with HIV hospitalized for COVID-19, especially during the Omicron variant wave. WHO recommends integrating mpox detection, prevention, and care with existing HIV and sexually transmitted infection programs.

The report advocates for expanding HIV testing options, such as self-testing and testing through sexual and social networks, to increase testing coverage and access to prevention and treatment services. Additionally, a new policy framework on primary health care and HIV aims to optimize collaboration to end the AIDS epidemic and strengthen universal health coverage.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on AIDS progress, some countries are making strides towards achieving the global targets for HIV response, with Australia, Botswana, Eswatini, Rwanda, United Republic of Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and 16 other countries nearing the 95-95-95 targets (95% of people with HIV knowing their status, 95% diagnosed receiving ART, and 95% on treatment having suppressed viral loads).

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