CUTTING HIV RISK in babies

INTERNATIONAL guidelines for mothers taking antiretrovirals might change, says a senior World Health Organisation official.

INTERNATIONAL guidelines for mothers taking antiretrovirals might change, says a senior World Health Organisation official.

New evidence shows HIV infection rates among babies are significantly cut when mothers are given prolonged ARV treatment during breastfeeding.

The WHO is reviewing its 2006 recommendations on the use of ARVs in pregnant women, including during the breastfeeding period.

New guidelines are expected by the end of this year and will include emerging data.

Results from a new study, conducted by the WHO in partnership with a range of international agencies, were released at an international Aids conference in Cape Town yesterday.

Key findings from the study showed that a stronger drug cocktail administered over a longer period reduced the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission compared with the current WHO-recommended short-course ARV regimen.

"The results show an almost two-fold reduction in the risk of HIV transmission during the breastfeeding period and also shows there is no short-term toxicity (to mothers or infants)," Tim Farley, project leader for the Kesho Bora study, told Reuters on Tuesday.

The Kesho Bora study was conducted at five sites in Burkina Faso, Kenya and South Africa and saw 824 pregnant women enrolled to receive either a combination of three antiretroviral drugs - zidovudine, lamivudine and lopinavir - or the standard WHO-recommended short course regimen.

Farley said the combination drugs were administered from the last trimester of pregnancy and continued for a maximum of six months of breastfeeding.

"This is the first randomised trial to quantify the magnitude of the reduction in risk and shows that in the short-term, certainly, it is safe."

Farley said the participants would be monitored to see if there were any long-term health side-effects. Results were expected to be released within a year's time. - Reuters

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