ANY person with HIV whose partner is not infected should be offered immediate treatment to cut the risk of transmission. The recommendation, from the World Health Organization, is part of a global crackdown on the spread of HIV.
Giving antiretroviral drugs to an infected partner earlier reduces the risk of transmission by 96 per cent, a clinical trial found last year.
The new strategy is part of a drive to stop HIV spreading, even if it means treating people whose immune systems are not yet depleted to the levels that usually require therapy. "This is the first time people would get treatment not necessarily for their own benefit, but to protect their partners," says Bernhard Schwartlander, director of evidence, innovation and policy at UNAIDS in Geneva, Switzerland.
"The big question is to what extent reducing the viral load in a community impacts the HIV epidemic overall," says Andrew Ball of the WHO's HIV/AIDS department.