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Strategy to End AIDS Epidemic

  • Joe DeCapua

2011 saw the 30th anniversary of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. A San Francisco hillside displayed a giant AIDS ribbon to mark the occasion.

2011 saw the 30th anniversary of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. A San Francisco hillside displayed a giant AIDS ribbon to mark the occasion.

A leading AIDS advocacy group says while the end of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is within reach, success is far from assured. AVAC has released a science-based agenda to end the more than 30-year-old epidemic. The report has been released on the eve of World AIDS Day.

The AVAC 2011 report describes ending the epidemic this way: drastically reducing the number of new infections, while preserving the health of people living with HIV so they do not progress to full-blown AIDS and death.

“It basically means transitioning from lots of interesting and exciting, independent elements into a comprehensive vision for what are the pieces that can most effectively prevent infection and reach closer to the end of the epidemic. What do we actually need to do to make sure that we go from rhetoric and vision into action,” said Mitchell Warren, head of AVAC, formerly known as the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition.

Three words

The AVAC agenda is summed up in three words: deliver, demonstrate and develop. Deliver today’s proven strategies on a large scale, such as HIV testing, male circumcision and treatment.

Demonstrate and rollout newly available HIV prevention tools. These include microbicides and using antiretroviral drugs as a prevention method, known as pre-exposure prophylaxis. And develop long-term solutions, including an effective vaccine and eventual cure.

“Those three scaled-up interventions delivered today could have tremendous impact on beginning to control the epidemic,” he said.

Going to take money

The AVAC report says capitalizing on recent advancements requires a plan that is comprehensive, science-based, actionable and optimistic, but realistic as periodic setbacks appear.

One setback could be the level of funding. Advances in prevention and vaccine research come during a global economic crisis.

“It’s going to take money,” warren said, “And it’s going to take more money, not less money. We have to understand that if this were a business, this would be one of the best times to be investing in the AIDS response because of the promising science. Stepping back now would be at greatest peril because the advances we have made won’t come again easily or cheaply.”

The AVAC report says the term “ending the epidemic in our lifetime” means different things to different people. To AVAC it means “in the foreseeable future.”