A total 36.7 million individuals around the globe are living with HIV/AIDS and the disease has caused over 35 million deaths. Today (December 1, 2016) marks the 35th anniversary of the first reports that were published on HIV/AIDS and it is on this, World AIDS Day, that researchers come together to reflect on all of the advancements that have been made in the fight against the disease and identify what needs to be done next. The goal? To put an end to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
In honor of World AIDS Day, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released a statement
to the public to showcase a number of recent achievements and explain future research goals. According to the NIH, one of the biggest successes lies in the different treatment options that have been developed and refined over the years, namely antiretroviral therapy
(ART). This therapy simultaneously works to reduce transmission of the virus to others, as well as suppress the virus so that those who are infected can live longer lives
According to the NIH, “Antiretroviral has been transformational for both individuals and communities. Large studies conducted in diverse settings, from US cities to African villages, have demonstrated the power of treatment to preserve the health of those living with HIV.”
By taking a prescribed daily ART regimen, or combination of HIV-fighting medicines, the therapy works to cut down the amount of the virus that is inhabiting an infected individual’s body. With less virus in the body, the individual’s immune system has more of an opportunity to regroup and continue to fight off different infections and cancers that HIV-infected individuals are more susceptible to contracting as a result of their infection, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.
The NIH notes that research has shown that the more testing that is done for HIV, the more people learn about opportunities for treatment and support in fighting the virus if they are infected or become infected. According to the NIH, “The power of treatment as prevention cannot be underestimated in helping to achieve global targets to dramatically reduce new infections and improve the health of those already living with HIV.” Testing and treatment are especially important for those who are at higher risk of infection, such as men who have sex with men (MSM). In a past Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), researchers examined
HIV incidence surveillance data to see if MSM were completing routine testing. The researchers found that more MSM were going for testing, but many were not adhering to treatments that were provided due to a number of unmet ancillary needs, such as proper food/nutrition, access to mental health care, and a need for transportation assistance, among others. The CDC continues to address these unmet needs in at-risk populations.