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“New WHO norms on HIV services not well thought-out”

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Especially in the context of providing ART to men who have sex with men, say gay rights activists

Activists working on gay and transgender rights feel the new guidelines from the World Health Organisation (WHO) on HIV services for key groups have not been very well thought-out specially in the context of providing anti-retroviral therapy(ART) to men who have sex with men (MSM).

They also feel that priority to the MSM is not appropriate in a country where women and children are much more at risk and in need of intervention. The WHO, in a news release on July 11, for the first time strongly recommended that MSM consider taking anti-retroviral medicines as an additional method of preventing HIV infection alongside the use of condoms. Rates of HIV infection among MSM remain high almost everywhere and new prevention options are urgently needed, the WHO said.

Global AIDS meet

The “Consolidated guidelines on HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care for key populations,” was issued in the lead-up to the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia, which starts on Sunday. At the conference, WHO is expected to call on governments to re-energise and strengthen HIV programmes.

Dr. V.K. Subburaj, secretary, department of AIDS Control, told The Hindu that already 7,77,485 persons were receiving ART and in the case of MSM, they would first have to be identified. In India, the number of MSM was much lesser than other countries, compared to the population size. Now ART is being given to those with CD4 cell counts below 350 (CD4 cells or T-cells are the cells that send signals to activate your body’s immune response when they detect viruses or bacteria). There are plans to include those whose CD4 counts are below 500 in the ambit of ART. This could mean an additional one lakh persons. Any decision on preventive ART would have to take into account the numbers involved and identifying those who need it.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 1:59:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/new-who-norms-on-hiv-services-not-well-thoughtout/article6229319.ece

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