WHO Launches Guidelines to Speed Up Delivery of Antiretroviral Drugs to HIV/AIDS Patients

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Experts from WHO's HIV/AIDS programme are developing a standardized set of guidelines to simplify and speed up the delivery of antiretroviral (ARV) medicines and treatment to HIV/AIDS patients all over the world.

The guidelines which are due to be unveiled on World AIDS Day on 1 December will be followed by a massive training programme to instruct thousands of nurses and other medical workers in the new procedure.

Both guidelines and training are part of a new WHO drive to address the failure to deliver ARVs to the millions of people who need them in the developing world. WHO declared this a global public health emergency on 22 September at the UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS in New York.

"ARV [antiretroviral] treatment is still very tailored to individual patients which means that a huge number of ARV combinations are possible," said Gottfried Hirnschall from WHO's HIV/ AIDS department, adding that this makes drug procurement and training unnecessarily complicated, time-consuming and more costly.

The idea of a single standardized ARV procedure was inspired by WHO's recent success with DOTS, a standardized treatment strategy for people with tuberculosis. Standardization is one of a number of new initiatives launched in October to tackle the worsening global epidemic.

The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria said that of the US$ 623 million in funds it has raised and approved for new grants, about 60 per cent would be channelled into HIV/AIDS programmes. Other agencies have joined WHO in their challenge to achieve the global "3 by 5" target of delivering ARV medicines to 3 million people by 2005. The World Food Programme (WFP), for example, has joined UNAIDS to boost the UN's response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic by working to deliver food supplies to people with HIV/AIDS in the developing world.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has responded by doubling its grant to fight AIDS in India to US$ 200 million, its largest single donation so far. According to UNAIDS, around 3. …