Could there be an end in sight for AIDS?

October 3, 2014, Taylor & Francis

South Africa is the epicentre of the HIV and AIDS epidemic with a staggering 6.4 million HIV infected citizens. In 1990 the WHO reported just 386 cases in South Africa. Over the next 15 years, despite warnings from scientists and policy makers, a tidal wave of infections ensued. How can policy and health provision cope to improve the outlook? The article 'The end of AIDS: Possibility or pipe dream? A tale of transitions' published in the African Journal of AIDS Research strategically examines the whole epidemic and identifies economic, epidemiological, and programmatic points for transition and future improvement.

Until 2001, HIV infection in the developing world amounted to certain death for all but the wealthiest. Development of Antiretroviral (ART) drugs now gives an infected young adult a life expectancy of 60. A massive break through, but each patient needs drugs for up to 30 years, representing a huge burden of cost and an enduring challenge for government and health providers to manage. The high cost of drugs may over reach the South African national health budget in a very few years. New infections outnumber AIDS deaths, increasing the number of people living with AIDS; patients requiring treatment increase faster than funding and the scenario escalates. Can the epidemic ever be managed out of an emergency into a more controlled state?

Prevention is central; only by reducing the rate of new infections can an eventual decline in HIV sufferers be achieved; an economic transition. After this tipping point those newly receiving treatment can outpace new infections; an epidemiological transition. In 2006 programmatic transition took place when newly initiated ART patients exceeded numbers of new patients needing ART. Sustained commitment to prevention and treatment has undoubtedly resulted in attrition of untreated HIV/AIDS patients. In future ART is proposed for a wider group of HIV patients, which the WHO believes will prevent 3 million deaths and 3.5 million new infections. It is clear though that despite this, AIDS and the financial load of ART will be here for many more generations, even if rates are brought under control. The authors note "Although significant progress has been made in combating HIV and AIDS, the end of the epidemic may still be a long way off. However, sustained efforts to expand prevention and treatment programmes, as well as health systems strengthening and innovative financing, will ensure the long-term impact of these transitions."

Explore further: South Africa targets screening whole population for AIDS

More information: "The end of AIDS: Possibility or pipe dream? A tale of transitions." Alan Whiteside & Michael Strauss. African Journal of AIDS Research, Volume 13, Issue 2, 2014. DOI: 10.2989/16085906.2014.927780

Related Stories

South Africa targets screening whole population for AIDS

July 23, 2014
South Africa's government plans to extend AIDS tests to the country's entire population and speed up antiretroviral treatment of those who test positive for the virus, the health minister said Wednesday.

AIDS epidemic's end by 2030 seen: UN official

September 19, 2013
A top UN official said the global AIDS epidemic could be over by 2030 because of progress made in treatment and control of the disease.

AIDS infections down by a third in S.Africa: UNAIDS

January 17, 2014
New cases of HIV and AIDS fell sharply in South Africa since ten years ago, a testimony to successful treatment, according to a report by the UN Aids body released Friday.

Governor: New York can end HIV crisis by 2020 (Update)

June 29, 2014
New York state can end its three-decade HIV crisis by the year 2020, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday as he announced an ambitious plan to deliver a knockout blow to the epidemic by boosting testing, reducing new infections ...

AIDS could be wiped out by 2030: UN

July 16, 2014
Global AIDS-related deaths and new HIV infections have fallen by over a third in a decade, raising hopes of beating the killer disease by 2030, the United Nations said Wednesday.

HIV epidemic 'smaller' than UN estimates: report

July 22, 2014
Anti-AIDS drugs have helped save 19 million years of human life since 1996, said an analysis Tuesday which also slashed UN estimates for HIV deaths and disease by a quarter.

Recommended for you

HIV exports viral protein in cellular packages

February 15, 2018
HIV may be able to affect cells it can't directly infect by packaging a key protein within the host's cellular mail and sending it out into the body, according to a new study out of a University of North Carolina Lineberger ...

Can gene therapy be harnessed to fight the AIDS virus?

February 13, 2018
For more than a decade, the strongest AIDS drugs could not fully control Matt Chappell's HIV infection. Now his body controls it by itself, and researchers are trying to perfect the gene editing that made this possible.

Big data methods applied to the fitness landscape of the HIV envelope protein

February 7, 2018
Despite significant advances in medicine, there is still no effective vaccine for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), although recent hope has emerged through the discovery of antibodies capable of neutralizing diverse ...

Scientists report big improvements in HIV vaccine production

February 5, 2018
Research on HIV over the past decade has led to many promising ideas for vaccines to prevent infection by the AIDS virus, but very few candidate vaccines have been tested in clinical trials. One reason for this is the technical ...

Microbiome research refines HIV risk for women

January 25, 2018
Drawing from data collected for years by AIDS researchers in six African nations, scientists have pinpointed seven bacterial species whose presence in high concentrations may significantly increase the risk of HIV infection ...

Researchers find latent HIV reservoirs inherently resistant to elimination by CD8+ T-cells

January 22, 2018
The latest "kick-and-kill" research to eliminate the HIV virus uncovered a potential obstacle in finding a cure. A recent study by researchers at the George Washington University (GW) found that latent HIV reservoirs show ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.