WHO ‘Treatment as Prevention’ guidelines are unlikely to decrease HIV transmission in the UK unless undiagnosed HIV infections are reduced

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The WHO guidelines recommend antiretroviral therapy (ART) begins when CD4+ cell counts reach less than 500 cells to reduce HIV transmission. In the UK, 96 000 people were living with HIV (PLWHIV) in 2011, ART coverage was 84% among the diagnosed population and 42% of PLWHIV had detectable viraemia. Using published methods, we estimate starting ART at below 500 CD4+ cells could have reduced the proportion of PLWHIV with detectable viraemia from 42% to 38%, whereas halving the undiagnosed population could have led to a decrease to 28%. In the UK, it is unlikely early treatment will reduce HIV transmission unless the undiagnosed population is substantially reduced.

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