Why HIV Treatment Is Becoming A Reality For People Everywhere
Just last year, it was announced that, for the first time in history, 50 percent of those infected with HIV/AIDS were receiving treatment. This landmark achievement is a massive process with different factors worldwide, but it’s all an interconnected humanitarian struggle against this life-threatening disease. 
As the year moves closer to 2019, it’s important to evaluate the measures being taken to keep the epidemic at bay and to take a closer look at the future of HIV/AIDS treatment worldwide.

A Survey of The World

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, known as UNAIDS, reported in 2017 that, of the 36.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS, 19.5 million are now receiving life-saving treatment in the form of anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs).

This trend has risen steadily since 2014 when UNAIDS announced that, if countries could meet the following goals for 2030, the global HIV/AIDS epidemic would be eliminated. Some of these goals are:

  • 90 percent of those with HIV are aware they carry the virus
  • 90 percent of the previous group begins using ARVs for treatment
  • 90 percent of those receiving treatment continue their treatment and reduce the levels of the virus in their system to levels below standard testing baselines.

These goals may seem as though it sets the bar high. However, after calculating the data from 168 countries in 2017, the world was already at 75-79-81. Several countries are doing exceedingly well: Iceland, Singapore, Sweden, Botswana, Cambodia, Denmark and the United Kingdom.

These nations have managed to keep the virus in 73 percent of the carrying population suppressed. This means that, after receiving HIV/AIDS treatment, 73 percent of individuals have such low levels of the virus in their blood that the disease is no longer transferable by them to another person.

An Uncertain Future

Though the world has made tremendous progress in recent years in controlling the number of HIV patients, much of this progress has to do with aid provided by the U.S. In 2018, the Trump Administration has been proposing cuts to the U.S. Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program. As one of America’s major global health initiatives, PEPFAR is responsible for HIV/AIDS treatment to millions of patients around the world.

President Trump’s budget proposal would strip PEPFAR’s funding from $6 billion to $5 billionThis is significant, as this program benefits those living along east and southern Africa. This area contains the highest concentration of those living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. The $1 billion cut would result in 1.8 million deaths over the next ten years in South Africa and The Ivory Coast alone. Those currently receiving ARV treatment will not lose their access to the life-saving medications they need because of the budget cuts.

Though the outcome for the future is uncertain, currently the world has been succeeding in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and HIV/AIDS treatment is becoming a reality worldwide. If countries worldwide can stay on track in meeting UNAIDS guidelines, then the global community may see this notorious virus eliminated by 2030.

Jason Crosby
Photo: Flickr

UNLV’s New Research on HIVResearchers from the University of Nevada Las Vegas have begun working on new research on HIV, human immunodeficiency virus, by finding ways to stop the virus from infecting human cells.

UNLV has already earned several financial grants for the research, including one from the National Institutes of Health.

The researchers are looking at genetic codes called minimotifs that direct cellular function. Their goal is to understand how the codes can help cells fight off HIV by blocking the virus from interacting with the cells.

“We chose HIV as our model system because we know viruses depend solely on cells to live,” said Kiran Mathew, a researcher at UNLV, in an interview with the Las Vegas Review Journal. “It’s a great model system we can use to test out the effects of (the codes) in the cell.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1.2 million Americans were infected with HIV as of 2012, with roughly 50,000 new cases each year.

By the end of 2014, close to 37 million people were living with HIV/AIDS worldwide and about 15 million people living with HIV were receiving antiretroviral therapy. The World Health Organization cites sub-Saharan Africa as the most affected region by HIV/AIDS globally with 26 million people infected in 2014. The region also accounts for almost 70 percent of the global total of new HIV infections.

There is currently no cure for HIV. The Food and Drug Administration has approved more than 25 antiretroviral drugs to help fight infections and improve quality of life for patients. With successful treatment, HIV infection can become a chronic, manageable disease. But therapy must be life long and there are limitations to diagnosis, treatment and care in geographical areas that are most heavily affected.

The promising new research coming out of UNLV might help develop new HIV drugs, code for other diseases and make personalized drugs specific for a patient’s genetic makeup. But first the findings must be published and patented before pharmaceutical companies could begin the process of bringing it to market where patients can benefit.

Megan Ivy

Sources: Review Journal, CDC, WHO
Photo: Flickr

The Threat of a Major AIDS Resurgence
Is AIDS on the rise despite the increase in HIV treatment availability throughout the world? A recent report by the Joint U.N. Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and The Lancet, a medical journal, have called attention to the emerging risk of a major AIDS resurgence in already affected regions.

According to the study, high rates of population growth in heavily affected areas and staggering infection rates, which continue to only fall slowly, will increase the number of people who need access to life saving treatment.

Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and lead author of the report, Professor Peter Piot, stated, “We must face hard truths — if the current rate of new HIV infections continues, merely sustaining the major efforts we already have in place will not be enough to stop deaths from AIDS increasing within five years in many countries.”

Among the most vulnerable populations, women and girls have not reaped the same benefit from slowly falling infection rates in comparison to their male counterparts. According to UN News Centre, AIDS-related illnesses are the leading cause of death for Sub-Saharan woman and girls of reproductive age.

The population of HIV-positive adolescent girls reaches sevenfold that of males. Additionally, many adolescent girls become infected with HIV 5 to 7 years before men.

In a commitment to prevent new HIV infections and increase treatment among women and girls, UNAIDS and the African Union have come together in a report called “Empower young women and adolescent girls: Fast-Track the end of the AIDS epidemic in Africa”.

“As we work with our communities, our networks, our health service providers and our governments, we must commit to demanding a comprehensive focus on young women in the AIDS response,” said Rosemary Museminali, UNAIDS Representative to the African Union.

In this response lies the answer to the threat of resurgence. As the study argues, efforts to combat AIDS must be enhanced to proportionally treat those infected, improve knowledge and prevention, and provide better access to medication.

More recently, the United Nations sponsored a successful deal with Roche Diagnostics in order to reduce the price of early infant diagnostic technology by 35 percent to US$9.40. Early diagnosis of HIV is essential to accessing treatment at a vital stage since many children who go undiagnosed only live up to 2 or 5 years.

“We have to act now,” Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS cautions, “The next five years provide a fragile window of opportunity to fast-track the response and end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. If we don’t, the human and financial consequences will be catastrophic.”

– Jaime Longoria

Sources: UNAIDS, UN News Centre 1, UN News Centre 2, UN News Centre 3

Photo: HealthNest

After years of struggling to get proper treatment to HIV/AIDS patients in Africa, there finally seems to be some progress, and furthermore, some hope.

Different aid and relief groups have struggled with treating people in Africa that have contracted the HIV or AIDS illness because of uncooperative governments, and a lack of financial means. However, despite seemingly discouraging statistics and results in the past, the United Nations Aids agency has thus far made a significant impact on the small communities throughout impoverished Africa.

The overall goal was to treat about 15 million people by 2015—a goal that was set in 2010. Targeting people in wealthier and more developed countries has not been an issue when it comes to spreading the treatment for HIV patients. Unfortunately, it has been significantly more difficult to provide treatment to poorer regions of the world, such as in Africa where there is the highest concentration of cases of HIV in the world. The region of Sub-Saharan Africa alone accounts for 66 perecnt of the cases of HIV around the world.

Despite obvious obstacles, the United Nations has been able to successfully provide treatment to many impoverished people in Africa. The goal previously set by the UN to provide treatment to 15 million people has already been reached and is now being surpassed. Since 2000, when the number of people being treated for the illness was only 700,000, the number of new cases per year around the world has decreased from 2.6 million to 1.8 million a year, a drastic drop.

Because these goals were met so quickly and efficiently, the UN has now set even more optimistic goals. The UN AIDS agency now is working to create more sustainable and long term treatment for patients living with HIV especially in poor countries. Furthermore, the UN is aspiring to end the AIDS epidemic entirely by the year 2030.

Alexandrea Jacinto

Sources: BBC, Avert
Photo: Direct Relief

Over the last decade, Malawi has reduced its rate of HIV/AIDS infections by 72 percent, more than any other African country. US agencies that combat the virus hope to build on these successes with a five-year effort to improve HIV/AIDS care in Malawi. The effort is coordinated with Malawi’s government and will target seven districts across the country.

The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, an NGO that focuses its anti-HIV work on mothers and children, is spearheading the effort. Funding is provided by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Centers for US Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

One of the biggest successes to date for HIV/AIDS care in Malawi has been the prevention of virus transmission to at least 7,000 babies. This has been accomplished through lifelong anti-retroviral treatment for all pregnant and breastfeeding women who are HIV-positive. The Foundation’s efforts continue to focus on pediatric preventive care. Its goal to achieve less than a five percent transmission rate from mother to child is well within reach.

Over the next five years, US organizations plan to provide other health care services in addition to HIV/AIDS care in Malawi. One million Malawians will receive counseling, 50,000 adult men and 400,000 pregnant women will receive HIV testing, and lifelong treatment will be provided to at least 25,000 women expected to test positive for the virus.

Despite gains over the last decade, AIDS remains the number one cause of death in Malawi, with about 100 deaths and 30 new infant infections each day. The Malawian minister of health, Catherine Hara, expressed hope that the seven targeted districts will serve as a model for widespread improvements in HIV/AIDS care in Malawi.

– Kat Henrichs

Source: Relief Web
Photo: [email protected]