Thursday, December 29, 2011

The End of AIDS Is Only Dollars Away

The iconic symbol of
support for those with AIDS
Have you heard that the beginning of the end of the AIDS pandemic is on the horizon?

In what to me is the most under-reported story of 2011, scientists announced a major breakthrough in the global fight against the spread of AIDS. New research shows that the antiviral drugs used to treat those who already have HIV can actually prevent the spread of the virus to others. 

Amazingly, when antivirals are administered soon enough after infection, they are nearly 100% effective in stopping the transmission of HIV.

Prior to 2011, antiviral drugs were seen only as a course of treatment, but this new research indicates that the drugs may be pivotal in helping to actually end the worldwide pandemic. The challenge this breakthrough discovery presents going forward is in large part a financial one. 

Antiviral drug therapy is expensive, and until now, it has only been an element of treatment after the immune system of an infected individual becomes significantly compromised. In other words, those who have HIV and who are still perceived as healthy are not currently eligible for antiviral drug treatment, and consequently, may still be spreading the virus. Scientists now believe if newly infected individuals are started on a course of antivirals immediately after diagnosis, they will no longer be able to transmit the disease to others.

For the first time, scientists believe that the end of the AIDS epidemic is more than just imagination. Evidence exists that shows increasingly rigorous testing, combined with early antiviral treatment for those who are infected, regardless of symptoms or immune system deficiencies, will eventually curb and ultimately halt the spread of HIV. 

We have made enormous progress in the fight against AIDS in the last thirty years, and science is showing us the way to end the pandemic. What we must do now is convince our government and our healthcare industry, and ultimately ourselves, that ending AIDS is worth the effort and the money it will cost. 

We spend billions of dollars annually on military preparedness, on infrastructure, on the drug war, on space exploration, on health care, and on thousands of other priorities. With the end of AIDS now in sight, can we ensure the funding that science and medicine need to make it happen? With 30 million people already dead from AIDS-related causes, and 33 million more living with HIV infection, how can we not?

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