Since the 1980s when AIDS was a death sentence,Dr. Anthony Fauci has been working to end the pandemic.Now he says we have the tools to do it.
What I mean is that we have extraordinarily effective drugsbut recently those drugs have been shown over the past few years, not only to save the lives of the people who take the drugsbut also to bring the level of virus in an infected person so low but a little detectable level that it makes it virtually impossible for that person to transmit the virus to someone else.Drug therapy is now simplifiedand many people in developing countries have access to the most recent drugs.We also have Truvada, a drug that prevents people who don’t have HIV from getting it.UNAIDS reports that more than half of all people living with HIV are getting treatedbut another 16 million people infected with the virus are not on medication. Many of them don’t know they have HIV so they pass it on others.
In order to get a durable end to the epidemic, we would be greatly helped by an HIV vaccine.A vaccine trial in Thailand proved to be 31% effective.Compare that to the measles vaccine which is 99% effective, can scientists develop an AIDS vaccine that is that good?
I don’t think we’re gonna get there with an HIV vaccinebut even a vaccine that’s 50, 55 at the most 60% effective together with the implementation of the other advances we have,I believe we could turn around the trajectory of the epidemic and essentially end it as we know it.
Another vaccine trial is taking place in South Africa.The results won’t be in for a whileand there’s no way of telling if it will be good enough to help end AIDS.In the meantime more people need to get tested and have access to health care.UNAIDS reports that in Sub-Saharan Africa, new HIV infections have fallen by half since 2000but in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, HIV infections have risen 60% over the past several years.Both Fauci and UNAIDS say ending the pandemic is up to the global communityand how much effort and money it’s willing to commit towards this goal.
Carol Pearson, VOA News, Washington.