Earlier initiation of the drugs that repress the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can reduce long-term mortality and sickness, the group said.
It set out its recommendations in a paper published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, and presented in Vienna before the six-day 18th International Aids Conference got under way.
The group suggested that infected individuals be treated when their count of CD4 cells reached 500 or below.
Therapy “should be considered” for non- symptomatic patients with more than 500 cells per microlitre, it said, adding: “There is no CD4 cell count threshold at which initiating therapy is contra-indicated,” or inadvisable.
Therapy is also recommended for patients who are pregnant, older than 60, are co-infected by hepatitis B or C and at high risk of cardiovascular disease.
The CD4 count is the one major barometer of infection by HIV.
A healthy, uninfected person has a CD4 count of between 1000 and 1500 cells. Under UN guidelines, treatment is advised when infection is at 350 CD4 cells .
Changes in guidelines have consequences that reach into many spheres.
Treating people sooner means boosting the drugs bill at a time of widening austerity.
It also requires having the infrastructure in place – doctors, nurses and labs – to ensure the therapy is being properly followed and the patient is responding to treatment.