Objective: To determine the status of key national policies on the use of antiretroviral therapy (ART) at the time of the launch of the 2013 WHO consolidated guidelines as well as to track early progress towards adoption of these recommendations following dissemination.
Design: Descriptive analysis of global data on baseline ART policies as of June 2013 and early intentions to adopt the 2013 WHO for use of antiretroviral drugs guidelines as of November 2013.
Methods: Compilation of existing global reports on key HIV policies, review of national guidelines, data collection through annual drug procurement surveys and through guidelines dissemination meetings in each of the six WHO regions.
Results: Data were available from 124 low- and middle-income countries, including 97% of the 57 high-priority countries that have been identified by WHO and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). At baseline, only one country reported recommending antiretroviral therapy (ART) at a CD4+ T-cell count 250 cells/μl or less for adults and adolescents in 2013, whereas nine countries already recommended using CD4+ T-cell count 500 cells/μl or less. Recommendations for ART initiation regardless of CD4+ T-cell count for HIV-infected patients with tuberculosis (86%), hepatitis B (75%), all HIV-infected women who were pregnant or breastfeeding (option B+: 40%) or HIV-infected persons in a serodiscordant relationship (26%) had been nationally adopted as of June 2013. Eight of 67 countries (12%) already recommended treating all children less than 5 years of age. The triple antiretroviral combination of tenofovir + lamivudine (or emtricitabine) + efavirenz was recommended as the preferred first-line option for adults and adolescents more frequently (51%) than for pregnant women (38%), or for both adults/adolescents and pregnant women (28%; P < 0.05). Fewer than half (37%) of all countries reported recommending lopinavir/ritonavir for all HIV-infected children less than 3 years of age; 54% of countries reported recommending routine viral load monitoring, whereas only 41% recommended nurse-initiated ART.
Conclusions: A number of key WHO policy recommendations on antiretroviral drug use were adopted rapidly by countries in advance of or shortly following the launch of the 2013 guidelines. Efforts are needed to support and track ongoing policy adoption and ensure that it is accompanied by the scale-up of evidence-based interventions.