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The blood samples for the PCR testing for HIV for infants are gathered at the local clinics and hospitals in Malawi.
© Karin Schermbrucker/UNICEF
Health

HIV Pandemic Could Surge Again Due to 'Dangerous Complacency'


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A new study warns that "dangerous complacency" in response to the global HIV pandemic risks a resurgence of the disease, reports the BBC.

Stalled HIV funding has endangered efforts to control the disease and end the pandemic by 2030, the target previously agreed upon by UN member states, according to the report.  

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"Despite the remarkable progress of the HIV response, the situation has stagnated in the past decade,” said Dr. Linda-Gail Bekker, president of the International AIDS Society and professor at University of Cape Town, South Africa, in an interview with BBC. "Reinvigorating this work will be demanding — but the future health and well-being of millions of people require that we meet this challenge."

Despite a fall in new cases overall, the illness remains persistent in marginalized groups and developing countries, experts at the Lancet Commission say in a new report published days before the 22nd International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam this week.

Those most at risk mirror the same groups that were high-risk when the epidemic began in the early 1980s: gay and bisexual men, transgender people, people who inject drugs, sex workers, and the sex partners of people in those groups, reports NPR.

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Part of the problem is that AIDS/HIV testing and treatment is offered at standalone clinics rather than combined health centers serving multiple needs, authors of the study argue.

"It's a huge problem in Nigeria," said Dr. Chris Beyrer, epidemiologist with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public and an author of the report, in an interview with NPR. "And they also have an enormous unmet need for family planning. So it's not rocket science to integrate AIDS services with maternity care and family planning centers."

Meanwhile in Russia, where high-risk communities include injection drug users, a proposed combined services center might offer antiretroviral treatment as well as used needle exchanges.

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But key to preventing infection rates from climbing once more will be awareness campaigns, according to health experts.

"It's important to dispel the assumption that the end of HIV is near. We're not there yet," said Dr. George Seage III, professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who was unaffiliated with the Lancet report. "The prevention initiatives have lacked funding and enthusiasm. Like any infectious disease, it doesn't take much to have it spike again, and [we would] lose all that we've gained."