UNAIDS pushes simpler treatment plan
The organisation released details of the new plan it is working on with governments and other stakeholders worldwide at the release of its Global HIV/AIDS report yesterday.
Called “Treatment 2.0”, the approach is aimed “reducing treatment costs, making treatment regimens simpler and smarter, reducing the burden on health systems and improving the quality of life for people living with HIV and their families.”
At present, some 33.3 million people worldwide are living with HIV and almost half of these need antiretroviral treatment. However, only around five million people, or a third of those in need, are on ARVs and the demand for treatment threatens to overwhelm the health budgets of countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Current approaches to treatment have not been optimal for the 15 million people in need,” according to the UNAIDS Global Report.
“Treatment 2.0—a radically simplified treatment platform— holds promise to simplify treatment and provide all people needing it with a better pill, less likely to lead to resistance, simpler diagnostics and monitoring, easier HIV testing, and more community empowerment. All stakeholders should unite to make this a reality.”
Treatment 2.0 is built on five pillars. The first pillar is the development of a “smarter, better antiretroviral pill” that will be” less toxic, longer-acting and easier to use”.
At present, people usually take a cocktail of three pills twice a day. However, UNAIDS believes it is possible to produce one combination pill that may only need to be taken once a day.
The second pillar of the plan rests on simpler “diagnostic tools” to test patients’ viral loads and CD4 counts (measure of immunity) that don’t rely on complicated equipment and specialised laboratory technicians. This would cut costs and make it easier for people to get access to treatment.
Thirdly, UNAIDS also calls for a reduction in the cost of ARV medicine so that they are “more affordable”.
Simpler pills and tests should allow service delivery to be decentralized and integrated into other services, the fourth point in the UNAIDS plan.
The final pillar is community mobilization, aimed at encouraging people to get ARV treatment and to adhere to treatment.
“Greater involvement of community based organisations in treatment maintenance, adherence support and monitoring will reduce the burden on health systems,” notes UNAIDS.