New WHO guidance on HIV viral suppression and scientific updates released at IAS 2023
The World Health Organization (WHO) is releasing new scientific and normative guidance on HIV at the 12thInternational IAS (the International AIDS Society) Conference on HIV Science.
New WHO guidance and an accompanying Lancet systematic review released today describe the role of HIV viral suppression and undetectable levels of virus in both improving individual health and halting onward HIV transmission. The guidance describes key HIV viral load thresholds and the approaches to measure levels of virus against these thresholds; for example, people living with HIV who achieve an undetectable level of virus by consistent use of antiretroviral therapy, do not transmit HIV to their sexual partner(s) and are at low risk of transmitting HIV vertically to their children. The evidence also indicates that there is negligible, or almost zero, risk of transmitting HIV when a person has a HIV viral load measurement of less than or equal to 1000 copies per mL, also commonly referred to as having a suppressed viral load.
Antiretroviral therapy continues to transform the lives of people living with HIV. People living with HIV who are diagnosed and treated early, and take their medication as prescribed, can expect to have the same health and life expectancy as their HIV-negative counterparts.
“For more than 20 years, countries all over the world have relied on WHO’s evidence-based guidelines to prevent, test for and treat HIV infection,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “The new guidelines we are publishing today will help countries to use powerful tools have the potential to transform the lives of millions of people living with or at risk of HIV.”
At the end of 2022, 29.8 million of the 39 million people living with HIV were taking antiretroviral treatment (which means 76% of all people living with HIV) with almost three-quarters of them (71%) living with suppressed HIV. This means that for those virally suppressed their health is well protected and they are not at risk of transmitting HIV to other people. While this is a very positive progress for adults living with HIV, viral load suppression in children living with HIV is only 46% – a reality that needs urgent attention.