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Exploding Epidemics' of HIV/AIDS Prompt This Blunt Recommendation

Precaution could avert "up to one million new infections among this group over 10 years."

In this January 2013 photo provided by Penn Medicine, a technician removes a case of modified T cells genetically modified to resist HIV infection from storage in an ultra-low temperature freezer for testing at the Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia. Scientists have modified genes in the blood cells of HIV patients to help them resist the AIDS virus, and say the treatment seems safe and promising. The results give hope that this approach might one day free at least some people from needing medicines to keep HIV under control. Results of the study at the University of Pennsylvania were published in the Thursday, March 6, 2014 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. (AP Photo/Penn Medicine, Peggy Peterson Photography) AP Photo/Penn Medicine, Peggy Peterson Photography

As the old killer makes a comeback, the World Health Organization is urging precautionary measures for one group in particular: men who have sex with men.

In order to stunt the spread of HIV/AIDS, WHO published guidelines Friday that essentially recommend that all sexually active gay men take an HIV prevention pill.

"We are seeing exploding epidemics," said Gottfried Hirnschall, head of WHO's HIV department.

In this January 2013 photo provided by Penn Medicine, a technician removes a case of modified T cells genetically modified to resist HIV infection from storage in an ultra-low temperature freezer for testing at the Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Penn Medicine, Peggy Peterson Photography)

Men who have sex with men are 19 times more likely to be infected with HIV than the general population, Hirnschall noted.

As the AFP reported:

In its new recommendations for combatting the HIV/AIDS pandemic, published Friday, the UN health agency therefore for the first time "strongly recommends men who have sex with men consider taking antiretroviral medicines as an additional method of preventing HIV infection".

US authorities made the same recommendation in May.

Taking pre-exposure prophylaxis medication, for instance as a single daily pill combining two antiretrovirals, in addition to using condoms, has been estimated to cut HIV incidence among such men by 20-25 percent, WHO said, stressing that this could avert "up to one million new infections among this group over 10 years".

The new guidelines also focus on other high-risk groups, pointing out that men who have sex with men, transgender people, prisoners, people who inject drugs and sex workers together account for about half of all new HIV infections worldwide.

Follow Zach Noble (@thezachnoble) on Twitter

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