Antiretroviral therapy has transformed the outlook for people living with HIV: rates of death have fallen dramatically since its introduction in 1996. With early diagnosis and prompt access to treatment, a person diagnosed with HIV can now expect to live almost as long as someone who does not have HIV. However, people in the European Region who are diagnosed late with HIV have a risk of death or progression to AIDS within a year of diagnosis that is up to 13 times higher, on average, than those diagnosed promptly. (This figure varies across the European region.)
In addition, it is now known that effective treatment radically reduces infectiousness and prevents the transmission of HIV. In a recent large-scale international study among couples in which one partner had HIV infection, was on suppressive antiretroviral therapy and did not use condoms, no documented cases of within-couple HIV transmission were found.
Early diagnosis of HIV is therefore a priority, to enable people to access treatment. WHO HIV treatment guidelines now recommend that antiretroviral therapy should be initiated in all people diagnosed with HIV, however early their infection and whatever their CD4 count.