Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Thirty years on, Aids fight may tilt more to treatment

After 30 years of Aids prevention efforts, global leaders may now need to shift their focus to spending more on drugs used to treat the syndrome as new data show this is also the best way to prevent the virus from spreading.

The UN General Assembly will take up the issue next week as it assesses progress in fighting the syndrome — 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%.

“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?'”

Metaphor for inequality
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 UN Programme on HIV/Aids.

UNAids says at least $22-billion will be needed to combat the syndrome by 2015, helping avert 12-million new infections and 7.4-million more deaths in the next decade.

Globally, the number of people living with HIV rose to 34-million by the end of 2010, from 33.3-million a year earlier. But in poorer countries, a majority of eligible patients were not receiving antiretroviral treatment, according to UNAids.

Fauci says he has already discussed this with policymakers and may make public his views on needed policy changes at the International Aids Society meeting in Rome.

“I don’t think it’s going to be one-size-fits all,” Fauci said of the policy approach. “There is going to be certainly a difference between how things are looked at in the developing world and the developed world. And within the developed world, I think it will be a country-by-country issue.”

UNAids executive director Michel Sidibe noted that Aids remained “a metaphor for inequality” as the vast majority of patients live in Africa, where every year nearly 400 000 babies are born with HIV.

“If you’re privileged to be born in the North, you will not die from HIV. It you’re privileged to be born in the North, you will not have a baby born with HIV,” Sidibe said.

“Countries need to start looking at innovative financing. We need to have drugs which are not just for the rich market.” – Reuters

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

Mbeki tells ANC that land without compensation goes against the...

‘This would be a very serious disincentive to investment,’ says Thabo Mbeki in a document arguing that the ANC should not proceed with the Constitutional amendment of section 25

Micro-hydropower lights up an Eastern Cape village

There is hidden potential for small hydropower plants in South Africa

More top stories

SIU freezes R22-million in Digital Vibes accounts

The Special Investigating Unit said it would ask the tribunal to declare the health department’s contract with the company unlawful

Life-saving free train travel offered to domestic abuse victims in...

A pioneering railway scheme in the UK is helping domestic violence victims to escape their abusers by providing them with free travel to reach refuge

Oral submissions to inquiry on local government elections start next...

The hearings will be open to the media and the public, under strict level-three regulations

Education employees queue for Covid jabs, but some may have...

People who have had Covid-19 in the past 30 days or who have had a flu shot in the past 14 days will be vaccinated at a later date
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×