WHO Official: "Prevention and Treatment Are Two Faces of the Same Coin"

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The idea of HIV treatment as prevention got a major boost yesterday in the wake of a WHO meeting in Geneva on the use of antiretroviral therapy as a way to curb new HIV infections.

“In the past, there has been a false dichotomy between prevention and treatment,” Teguest Guerma, interim director of the WHO’s AIDS department, told Bloomberg news, according to this story, as the WHO meeting wrapped up. “That is really what has been corrected. Prevention and treatment are two faces of the same coin.” Guerma said providing wider access to ARV drugs “will achieve a significant transmission benefit.”

His comments are likely to bring fresh attention to the debate over scale up of HIV programs. They come at the same time the WHO is considering changing in its HIV treatment guidelines to support earlier initiation of antiretroviral therapy, reflecting scientific evidence that such a move significantly enhances survival. With evidence mounting that wider access to ARVs would have benefits for everything from HIV prevention to AIDS mortality to tuberculosis control, the chasm between the need for ARVs and the funding for treatment seems to be getting wider by the minute. Let us know what you think about Guerma’s statement and these related issues.

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