WHO tick means more treated for HIV

We’re excited. Researchers at the University
of New South Wales have identified a way by which many millions of people around the world
can access life saving antiretroviral therapy for the treatment of HIV infection. This approach has now been endorsed by the
World Health Organisation. We conducted a large clinical trial in which we investigated a reduced dose by about one third of a commonly used antiretroviral drug
called efavirenz. We were able to confirm that the reduced dose
was safe and effective for the treatment of HIV. Our reduced dose equates quite simply to a
reduced cost of providing treatments to individuals. So the trial involved 630 HIV-infected individuals who had not previously been treated with antiretroviral therapy. We found that the reduced dose of efavirenz
just as effective as the standard recommended dose of efavirenz in clinical care and we
also observed that the reduced dose had fewer side effects and was generally better tolerated. That’s good news for individuals to whom
the drug is prescribed – they’re going to be able to take it for longer. Effective treatment with antiretroviral therapy
reduces the amount of virus present in an individual’s body fluids to negligible levels. That’s good news for their health. It’s also good for communities because those individuals are far less likely to transmit HIV to uninfected
individuals. This work was funded with a primary award
through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – an award of around thirteen and a half million
US dollars. It was supplemented with additional income from
The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council. The trial was conducted in thirteen countries
involving thirty eight investigational centres on six continents over a three year period. The effect of the WHO endorsement will be greater purchasing of the reduced dose of efavirenz resulting in more people being
treated, more lives saved, fewer new infections and reduced program costs. This is extraordinarily important work which will have a global impact. I’m delighted that UNSW can offer part of the solution to a worldwide problem that affects thirty five million people.

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