Charlize Theron released an incredible UN report about ending AIDS by 2030
Over the past few years, I’ve been stunned by the number of new discoveries in the fight against HIV/AIDs. Eradicating the virus completely is, potentially, closer than many people realize.
Charlize Theron presented a report this week, published by UN AIDs, that lays out the latest update to the plan to end the crisis by 2030. (Check out the video above)
I would encourage everyone to read the full report (linked here). It lays out what’s needed to see an AIDS free generation in our lifetime.
It also provides an opportunity to discuss 2 major advances that are changing the conversation about the end of AIDS and to explain why we are closer than ever to seeing its eradication.
1)Research has shown that people who are diagnosed with HIV and are on treatment, present almost zero risk of transmission.
Flickr: SIM Central and South East Asia
When an HIV positive individual takes medication as prescribed, they can reach a point when they have an “undetectable viral load.” This means that there is no active virus in their blood and if an HIV test was administered, their infection would be undetectable.
Besides the fact that this has contributed to changing HIV from a death sentence to a manageable condition, it also drastically reduces the risk of transmission. Several studies have shown that the risk of passing on the virus when a person’s viral load is undetectable is near zero.
The implications of this are potentially huge. But a remaining problem in fighting HIV, is the fact that a significant number of those who are positive don’t know they are infected. This puts them at very high risk of passing the virus on to others. If we could ensure at risk populations were tested regularly and given treatment, this would be a huge step forward.
2)There is a once-a-day pill that is up to 99% effective at preventing HIV infection
Flickr: Lukas Braun
This year, the CDC/WHO released new guidelines for a treatment called “Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis” (PrEP). This involved people who are negative taking medication in order to reduce their risk of contracting the virus.
The two health agencies recommended that at-risk populations consider starting a drug regime in addition to other preventative measures such as regular condom usage.
The regime involves taking a pill called Truvada once daily. Research has shown this is between 90% and 99% effective at preventing infection if taken everyday. If this sounds unbelievable, I encourage you to read more about it.
This is a potential game changer; though it’s too early to tell what the drug’s impact will be. The biggest barrier to widespread usage is currently cost: one month’s supply of the drug can cost up to $1800 without insurance. This has made the potential of rolling out the drug in many developing countries untenable until costs come down.
We are closer than ever to seeing the end of AIDs: a phrase that at one point was unimaginable to say. The next 15 years will be crucial in the fight, requiring governments and individuals around the world to step up to the plate. Like with Ebola, one of the biggest challenges to combating HIV is often stigma. We can all take action in our daily lives to change the conversation about the virus and help remove some of the fear that prevents people from being tested.
HIV is no longer a death sentence. In fact, HIV individuals who are on treatment now have the same life expectancy as those who are negative. What’s important is that everyone knows his or her status: only then can informed choices be made.
As drug costs continue to drop, the global fight against the virus will continue. It’s an exciting moment and the future looks bright. Let’s continue to hold our leaders to account and help finally bring an end to the epidemic.