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Launching An Accelerated Treatment of HIV

treatment of hiv
While the world’s eye is fixed on the rise of Ebola in West Africa, it misses good news elsewhere about an even more deadly virus—HIV.

Pediatric HIV is one of the most feared diseases, and one with one of the highest risks of preventing children from seeing adulthood. Some 3.2 million infants live with the virus and around 700 are infected every single day.

An HIV diagnosis in an infant has been compared to a diagnosis in an adult at the beginning of the HIV epidemic in the 1980s. To put it more bluntly, it has been called “a death sentence.” Fifty percent do not live past two years old. Three people die of AIDS every minute and nearly 200,000 children died in 2013 alone.

For some time, a child known as the “Mississippi Baby” provided hope. The infant gained fame after being born with HIV but undergoing antiretroviral treatment immediately and testing with no evidence of the virus. Doctors described her as “functionally cured.” The virus recently returned, however and the baby will undergo further treatment.

Despite this setback, the outlook for the treatment of HIV has the ambition necessary for a strong battle. In 2001, the WHO claimed that there might be universal treatment coverage in certain regions of Africa by 2020. A plan called Treatment 2015 has details about how to reach 15 million people with antiretroviral treatment by the year 2015.

Countries like South Africa exhibited signs of massive success. In 2008, death from the disease was rampant and Nelson Mandela’s lethargic successor had no positive impact. But now the country has 2.4 million people receiving antiretroviral drugs and it adds another 100,000 per month. Clinics that dispensed the drugs rose from 490 to 3,540, while nurses capable of prescribing them rose from 250 to 23,000. Life expectancy has increased by 10 years, while new infections are down 33 percent and mother-to-child transmission is down by up to as much as 90 percent.

The success is based mainly on the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, started in 2003 by President George W. Bush. Since then, more than $3 billion has been spent training doctors, building clinics and buying drugs in South Africa alone.

But PEPFAR is set to transition into poorer countries and analysts suggest that this could expose South Africa to another HIV epidemic. Condoms are being used less and teenage girls in particular are contracting the disease at a high rate. But the people and the health minister of the country are confident they will find the political leverage necessary to continue fighting the disease.

– Andrew Rywak

Sources: New York Times, World Health Organization, UNAIDS, National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Disease, USAID
Photo: Huffington Post