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Saturday, December 1, 2012
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World Aids Day

A world without AIDS: working to end the epidemic

Thirty one years ago, when HIV/AIDS was first discovered, there was very little understanding about the devastating virus. Even in past decades, thinking to end the AIDS was a dare dream.

But now, scientists have new sense of optimism. With better understanding and groundbreaking scientific research that showed tremendous potential of anti-retroviral treatment in the prevention and functional cure of HIV infection, experts believe that the end of AIDS is within our reach.

However, new financial investments and renewed commitments from countries around the world will be critical to fulfill the aspiration.

Across the globe, more than 34 million people are living with HIV and it has been responsible for the deaths of an estimated 30 million individuals. A recent report released by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) showed that the global response to the worldwide AIDS epidemic continues making remarkable progress in HIV prevention, improved treatment, and reduced AIDS-related deaths, holding out hope and possibility for the end of AIDS. The report says that a dramatic 50 percent decrease in new HIV infections across 25 low- and middle-income countries, mostly in Africa, the continent most affected by HIV.

Much of the progress is attributed to the life-saving medications, called antiretrovirals, to treat those infected with HIV. These medicines reduce the amount of virus in the blood, which increases the chance they will stay healthy and decreases the risk they can pass the virus to someone else. It can also be used as prophylaxis for preventing HIV infection in high risk people.

In 2011, at the UN General Assembly, governments agreed to set the goal of getting 15 million HIV-infected people worldwide on the life-saving antiretroviral medicines by 2015. The latest global statistics suggest that, provided countries are able to sustain current efforts, this target is within reach.

However, in all regions of the world, some countries and some groups of people are still not able to access HIV prevention and treatment. Children, for example, are lagging badly behind: only 28% of children who need antiretrovirals can obtain them. We need to make sure they are getting it.

To end the epidemic, we cannot do everything in every setting. Core interventions including universal access to drug, male circumcision, improve HIV testing, should be complemented, where indicated by local circumstances, by other strategies, such as condom promotion, harm reduction, behaviour change strategies, demonstration projects for pre-exposure prophylaxis, and programs to address underlying determinants of HIV risk.

In order to make sure the progress continues and with a call for more concerted action from all countries fighting HIV, World AIDS Day is being observed today. The theme for 2011-2015 is "Getting to zero: zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS related deaths" — signifies a push towards greater access to treatment for all; a call for governments to act now.

Ending the HIV epidemic will require a global commitment of resources involving additional donor countries, strengthening health care systems overall, and fostering greater ownership by host countries of HIV/AIDS effort, including investing more in the health of their people. With collective and resolute action now and a steadfast commitment for years to come, we can create a world without AIDS for our next generation.

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