HIV cure research is
a topic that sits at the forefront of medical and scientific discussion. Remarkable progress
has been made over the last decade since Kofi Annan called for a “war chest” to
fight AIDS, a call which was endorsed by the United
Nations General Assembly shortly afterwards and led to the creation of the Global Fund the following year. Now nearly seven million people are
receiving antiretroviral treatment in developing countries.
advances were highlighted in the International AIDS Society
conference (IAS 2011) that took place in Rome last month. 142
countries were represented in the3,552 research
article abstracts which were submitted looking to
present new trends in HIV cure research, call for proactive outreach programmes
to prevent HIV transmission in injecting drug users, and demand increased
commitments to improving maternal and child health.
Following the large
development in AIDS
vaccine research last year when powerful sequencing uncovered potent
anti-HIV antibodies, new
research convincingly shows that a vaccine might not seem like the ‘holy
grail of HIV prevention’ after all. The latest results on the effectiveness of
drugs for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), presented at the International AIDS
Society 2011 conference show that PrEP could reduce new HIV infections by
up to 73 per cent.
Despite the positive breakthrough in HIV cure research statistics from
the Ghana AIDS Commission in 2009 revealed that
only four per cent of men and seven per cent of women had voluntarily tested
for HIV/AIDS with majority of Ghanaians refusing the test. Pakistan has been moved
from a "low prevalence – high risk" category to a "concentrated
epidemic" following a recent UN report on HIV which showed that 10%
of people among a random sample tested in the city of Larkana city in the
province of Sindh were infected with the virus.
The Caribbean, with an HIV infection rate of more than two percent, is the second most heavily infected area in the world after sub-Saharan Africa.
Kevin De Cock, Director of the World Health
Organization ( WHO ) Department of HIV/AIDS claimed in a recent interview that AIDS is the kind of problem for which “we’ll never
have a single magic bullet because it’s fundamentally an infection that is
transmitted through behaviors, through very common and human behaviors relating
to sexual behavior, drug-using behavior and reproductive behavior.”
The take-home message from IAS 2011, as
supported by Dr. De Cock’s statement, emphasized that although we can now
contemplate moving towards ending the epidemic we should not threaten the
chances of success by relying on one approach alone.