People infected with the virus that causes AIDS should start treatment earlier than currently recommended, the World Health Organization said Monday.
The UN agency issued new guidance advising doctors to start giving patients AIDS drugs a year or two earlier than usual. The advice could double the number of people worldwide who qualify for treatment, adding an extra 3 to 5 million patients to the 5 million already awaiting AIDS drugs.
WHO's previous HIV treatment advice was published in 2006. Since then, several studies have shown people with HIV who start drugs earlier than recommended have a better chance of surviving.
WHO now advises doctors to start HIV patients on drugs when their level of CD4 cells - a measure of the immune system - is about 350. Previously they said doctors should wait until patients' levels hovered around 200. In most Western countries, doctors start treating HIV patients when their CD4 count is about 500.