Objective: This article reviews the antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation criteria from national treatment guidelines for 70 countries and determines the extent of consistency with the current World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations.
Methods: Published ART guidelines were collected from the Internet, databases, and WHO staff. ART eligibility criteria for asymptomatic people, pregnant women, people with HIV-associated tuberculosis, serodiscordant couples, injecting drug users, men who have sex with men, and sex workers were abstracted from them. Multiple regression analysis was used to determine the relation between ART eligibility criteria, ART coverage, and various population characteristics and policy interventions.
Results: Of the 70 countries, 42 (60%) follow WHO’s ART guidelines for asymptomatic people and 31 (44%) for pregnant women, recommending ART at CD4 count of ≤350 cells/mm3. Twenty-three (33%) countries recommend ART for people with HIV-associated tuberculosis irrespective of CD4 count. Nineteen countries are also recommending or considering earlier ART above CD4 count ≤350 cell/mm3 for asymptomatic people, pregnant women, and/or serodiscordant couples. Multiple linear regression analysis shows that HIV prevalence, year of publication of guidelines, and HIV expenditure are significantly associated with published ART eligibility criteria. On average, the ART coverage is similar irrespective of published guidelines being consistent with the WHO recommendation (P < 0.53).
Conclusions: Published guidelines from a significant number of countries are not following WHO recommendations. Although published guidelines may not reflect practice, it is important to adapt recommendations and services quickly to reflect the emerging science on the health and prevention benefits of earlier access to ART.