2011 has been a momentous year in the 30-year-old AIDS pandemic.
The big breakthrough was the discovery that antiviral drugs can prevent someone who’s infected with HIV from passing the virus to others. It’s nearly 100 percent effective. That led President Obama to declare earlier this month that the U.S. will expand HIV treatment in hard-hit countries by 50 percent.
As recently as last year, many of those experts were saying that just giving more people with HIV more drugs would never work. “For every one person that was put on antiretroviral therapy or treatment, we would have two to three new infections identified,” Dr. Eric Goosby, U.S. Global AIDS coordinator, says.
It looked like a losing game, but not anymore.
The new research shows that antiviral drugs not only save the lives of infected people, they also stop people from spreading the virus and causing new infections, if the drugs can be given early enough after someone gets infected. The new strategy is called “treatment as prevention.”
“So we suddenly are looking at a moment where we can treat our way out of the epidemic,” Goosby says. “That’s the turning point that we’re looking at.” Still, it’ll take decades to end AIDS, according to experts. But many say the world has to be much more aggressive about treating HIV.
But just the fact that this is being reported on and is being taken seriously is a big deal.
- Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.: World AIDS Day 2011: Working to End the Pandemic (huffingtonpost.com)
- UNC HIV Prevention Research Named Scientific Breakthrough Of The Year (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Drugs that Prevent HIV Transmission Named ‘Breakthrough of 2011’ (livescience.com)