On World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, we remember the millions who have lost their lives to HIV and the 34 million who continue to live with it, in the United States and around the globe. As HIV medical providers and researchers, we also reflect on the unparalleled advances that have been made in the understanding of HIV, how to manage and treat it, and how to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV.
This past year, we have witnessed scientific advances that make dramatic changes to the trajectory of the pandemic possible, including ending AIDS both in the U.S. and globally.
The results of a major study supported by the National Institutes of Health, announced earlier this year, confirmed that lifesaving HIV treatment also prevents the infection from spreading to others. Researchers found that HIV-infected patients treated with antiretroviral drugs while their immune systems were still healthy were 96 percent less likely to pass the infection to their uninfected sexual partners than those whose HIV treatment was delayed.
These findings, combined with what we know about the effectiveness of other prevention tools, spotlight a clear path for ending this pandemic—if we commit the resources necessary to put advances in HIV care, treatment, and prevention into widespread practice in the U.S. and around the world.
The need for HIV care remains great. Each year, 2.7 million people are infected with HIV globally, but only a third of those infected who live in poor countries and need treatment are able to access it. In the U.S., more than 50,000 people are infected with HIV annually, and more than 1 million people are living with HIV. Rising demand for HIV care continues to stretch clinics that provide this care to patients without insurance to the limit, with some cutting services just to keep their doors open, while funding fails to keep pace.
To halt this pandemic, we must fully implement the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, continue our investment in the Ryan White Program, and ensure that more people have access to effective HIV care through the implementation of health care reform. Globally, the U.S. must maintain adequate funding for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, critical programs in the battle against HIV/AIDS.
As we reach 30 years of this pandemic, the science indicates that with the will, we can end the pandemic, notwithstanding the challenges that lie ahead. As we observe World AIDS Day, let us, as a nation, mark the beginning of the end by making a commitment to provide HIV-infected persons access to HIV care and treatment services, and to provide people at risk for HIV access to the combination of effective prevention interventions that are available today.
The HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) is the professional home for more than 5,000 physicians, scientists, and other health care professionals dedicated to the field of HIV/AIDS. Nested within the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), HIVMA promotes quality in HIV care and advocates policies that ensure a comprehensive and humane response to the AIDS pandemic informed by science and social justice. For more information, visit www.hivma.org.
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