South Africa to give free HIV treatment to all infected

OHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa says it will now provide free treatment to all people infected with HIV, regardless of the condition of their immune system.

Before Thursday's announcement by the country's health department, people were eligible for free treatment based on a certain measure of their white blood cells, which fight infection.

The change is based on World Health Organization guidelines adopted in late 2015 after it was found that treating those with HIV as early as possible improves their health and prolongs their life.

South Africa has one of the world's largest treatment programs, with over 3.4 million people receiving HIV medication.

The country also leads the world in infections. The United Nations has said some seven million people in South Africa were believed to be infected with HIV in 2105.