Sunday, June 5, 2011

30 Years of AIDS

    This weekend marks the 30th anniversary of the first few AIDS cases. Since then we have lost lovers, friends and family to this disease. But within the years, better treatments were created to keep people alive and well.

    Now global leaders are making stronger commitments in improving AIDS treatment for everyone.
    The U.N. General Assembly will take up the issue next week as it assesses progress in fighting the disease -- first reported on June 5, 1981 -- that has infected more than 60 million people and claimed nearly 30 million lives.
    Guiding the meeting is groundbreaking new data that shows early treatment of the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, can cut its transmission to a sexual partner by 96 percent.
    "There had been for a long time this artificial dichotomy or artificial tension between treatment versus prevention. Now it is very clear that treatment is prevention and treatment is an important part of a multifaceted combination strategy," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), told Reuters.
    Fauci, who has made AIDS research his life's work, has a big role to play in the discussion of the NIH-funded study made public on May 12.

    "A month ago, we didn't have that data. People were still arguing. 'Well, we are not so sure if you treat people you are really going to prevent infection,'" Fauci said. "The policy makers need to sit down and say, 'Now that we know this, is this going to be enough incentive to change around our policy?'"
    That could mean redirecting, or adding to, global spending on fighting AIDS, particularly how much is spent on education or other research versus antiretroviral drugs that allow patients to live with the suppressed disease for many years.

    In 2010, nearly $16 billion was spent on HIV response in low and middle-income countries, according to the U.N. Program on HIV/AIDS.

    UNAIDS says at least $22 billion will be needed to combat the disease by 2015, helping avert 12 million new infections and 7.4 million more deaths in the next decade.
    Hopefully soon, we will get rid of this disease.

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