Could there be an end in sight for AIDS?

October 3, 2014

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

Three-in-one antibody protects monkeys from HIV-like virus

September 20, 2017
A three-pronged antibody made in the laboratory protected monkeys from infection with two strains of SHIV, a monkey form of HIV, better than individual natural antibodies from which the engineered antibody is derived, researchers ...

Fighting HIV on multiple fronts might lead to vaccine

September 20, 2017
A combination antibody strategy could be the key to halting the spread of HIV, according to results from two promising animal studies.

HIV-AIDS: Following your gut

September 18, 2017
Researchers at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM) have discovered a way to slow viral replication in the gastrointestinal tract of people infected by HIV-AIDS.

Study finds cutbacks in foreign aid for HIV treatment would cause great harm

August 30, 2017
Proposed reductions in U.S. foreign aid would have a devastating impact on HIV treatment and prevention programs in countries receiving such aid, an international team of investigators reports. In their paper published online ...

Cancer drug can reactivate HIV

August 24, 2017
People living with HIV must take a combination of three or more different drugs every day for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, by following this strict treatment plan, they can suffer from side effects ranging from ...

New injectable antiretroviral treatment proved to be as effective as standard oral therapy

August 3, 2017
Intramuscularly administered antiretroviral therapy (ART) may be as effective for HIV treatment as current oral therapies. This is the main conclusion of a Phase II clinical trial carried out by 50 research centers around ...


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.