HIV "test and treat" in South Africa a no-go for the WHO

By Natalie Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags South africa Aids

WHO denies HIV "test and treat" claims in South Africa
The WHO has rubbished claims by the UCLA that it is planning launch a “test and treat” strategy in South Africa.

Earlier this week the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) suggested​ the World Health Organisation (WHO) is about to roll out a nationwide testing programme designed to wipe out HIV in South Africa in a decade​.

The US researchers - led by Sally Blower - called the plan “unrealistic”​ because the country lacks the manufacturing and analysis infrastructure to support the project, arguing that the approach would mean "treating 5 million individuals almost immediately and providing treatment for several decades.”​ 

However, speaking to a representative for WHO’s HIV/AIDS focus team said the model is just “an exercise” ​and that no plans have ever been made to implement a test and treat programme.

WHO is not proposing a ‘test and treat’ approach in South Africa or anywhere else,”​ the spokesman said.

“The modeling exercise undertaken by WHO was aimed at showing the potential impact of different scenarios for scaling up antiretroviral therapy (ART) for people living with HIV on the spread of HIV epidemics – it does not reflect WHO policy or recommendations. “

The spokesman said current guidelines - under which people do not receive any treatment until a CD4 (cluster of differentiation 4) cell count – drops below 350, will remain in place, except for pregnant women and for the HIV negative partners of an infected patients.

He also said regardless of whether a WHO test and treat policy is ready to launch or not, any decisions to adopt new approaches to HIV therapy are made by individual national Governments.

“We aren’t rolling out this initiative in South Africa or elsewhere,”​ he said. “In any case these decisions are made by the government, not WHO."

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