New European HIV treatment reference group to boost scale-up of HIV treatment

WHO

The WHO European HIV treatment reference group will support countries in scaling up antiretroviral treatment and care and provide quality technical guidance on HIV treatment for the next 2 years.

To support countries in scaling up antiretroviral treatment and care, and to meet an urgent need for quality technical guidance on HIV treatment, WHO has established the European HIV treatment reference group, and hosted the group’s first meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 12–13 July 2018.

In the WHO European Region, access to HIV treatment and care has been improving over the past few years. However, coverage with antiretroviral treatment remains very low in countries of eastern Europe and central Asia (EECA) (28% in 2016, compared to 76% in western and central Europe), and late diagnosis – affecting the WHO European Region overall and EECA in particular – delays the start of lifesaving treatment, leading in turn to more deaths and disease.

The meeting gathered regional and national experts and civil society groups engaged in scaling up access and provisions of antiretroviral treatment, as well as public health experts working in the field of HIV treatment and care from across the Region. Participants agreed on the overall functioning mechanism of the treatment reference group and on its main areas of work. These will including study visits to Member States, capacity-building and review of national policies and protocols. WHO will provide secretariat functions and ensure coordination.

The group was set up to operate for the next 2 years, with the possibility of extending its mandate based on the technical assistance needs in the Region.

“Treat all” policies and antiretroviral treatment across the region

Based on evidence supporting the prevention benefits of antiretroviral treatment, WHO recommends that it should be available and offered to all those living with HIV, as part of a set of policies referred to as “treat all” policies.

The treatment reference group experts reviewed country progress in implementing “treat all” policies, scaling up and optimizing antiretroviral treatment and regimens, and aligning national treatment policies with WHO recommendations. They also reviewed country needs for technical assistance in this area.

One of the group’s mandates will be to advise and guide activities in countries to ensure alignment with and faster uptake of WHO recommendations. Participants also received the latest updates from WHO and specific WHO information and tools that may be useful for the group’s work.