In a major change in policy, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended that people who test positive for HIV should start taking antiretroviral (ARV) medication immediately.

“Anyone infected with HIV should begin antiretroviral treatment as soon after diagnosis as possible,” no matter their age or populations groups, WHO said on 30 September 2015.

It’s new “treat-all” recommendation is supported by recent findings from clinical trials confirming that early use of ARV keeps people living with HIV alive, healthier and reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to partners.

Previously, only HIV positive people whose immune systems had a certain reduced level of CD4 cells were urged to start treatment.

In its updated policy, WHO has also now recommended that all people at “substantial” risk of HIV should be offered preventive ARV treatment, known as PrEP.

This follows the organisation’s 2014 call to offer PrEP to men who have sex with men (MSM).

Based on the new recommendations, the number of people eligible for ARV treatment increases from 28 million to all 37 million people who currently live with HIV globally.

According to UNAIDS estimates, expanding ART to all people living with HIV and expanding prevention choices can help avert 21 million AIDS-related deaths and 28 million new infections by 2030.