News / Africa

Scientists Unveil Strategy to End HIV/AIDS within 40 Years

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua

Health officials are considering a new strategy that they say could effectively kill off HIV/AIDS within 40 years.
    
The proposal is spearheaded by Professor Brian Williams of the South African Center for Epidemiological Modeling and Analysis (SACEMA).  It calls for blanket HIV testing for most of the world’s population, and those found HIV positive would be put immediately on a lifetime course of anti-retroviral drugs.
    
Past and Future
    
Professor John Hargrove, director of SECEMA in Stellenbosch, says, “What we’ve done in the past with HIV is try every manner of means that we can to stop people infecting each other.  But generally that’s been by way of trying to change the way they behave, to convince them that they should use condoms, that they should only have one partner and so on and so forth,” he says.
    
However, that approach has not always been successful.
    
“In particular, we are seeing very little sign in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana of any great change in behavior and certainly no great decline in the HIV prevalence.”
    
Hargrove says Williams bases the strategy on mathematical models.
    
“If you were in a place where you’ve got very high HIV prevalence, if you were to test the whole population, on average once a year and start people immediately on anti-retrovirals as soon as they were HIV positive, then you could actually reduce the incidence sufficiently that you would drive the epidemic to extinction within the foreseeable future.  That is of the order of 30 years.  I think that’s what’s radical about it.”
    
The logic behind it
    
“If you reduce the viral load, the amount of virus in the blood, then you radically reduce the infectiousness.  So, if in fact you get people very soon after they are HIV positive and put them on anti-retrovirals, you reduce the aggregate viral load in the entire population.  And therefore you will reduce the rate at which new infections occur,” he says.
    
By putting people on treatment sooner rather than later and by continuing current treatment programs, overall new infections might be held in check.
    
“Of course you will still have a lot of HIV-positive people in the population, but slowly as people just die out….  The mathematics of it simply indicate that if we manage to do this…this will be the logical outcome,” he says.
    
Targeting the most sexually active
    
The head of the South African Center for Epidemiological Modeling and Analysis says, for example, in Botswana the highest proportion of people on anti-retrovirals are those over 40 years old.
    
“But those people who are much more sexually active,” he says, “the people in their late teens and early 20s, who are HIV positive, they are very, very seldom on anti-retrovirals.  So those people who are most likely to spread the infection are the least likely to be on anti-retrovirals.  That’s the essential point.”
    
Strictly voluntary
    
Such a testing program could raise privacy issues in many countries.  Hargrove says the strategy does not call for mandatory HIV testing.
    
“We are not suggesting at all that there will be any form of coercion.  It would just be suggested to people very strongly that they may want to consider having an HIV test,” he says, “And that if in fact they are HIV positive, and if they want to, they will get free anti-retrovirals and they will have it for the rest of their lives.”
    
The idea of putting people on AIDS drugs long before their immune systems collapse has been circulating for a while.  Critics say one of the problems is that such a move could break the budgets of national AIDS programs in many countries.  Hargrove disagrees.
    
“The cost actually will be approximately the same over the next 40 years whether we continue what we’re doing right now or if we put into place what Brian (Williams) suggested we do.  The big difference is that if we continue the way we’re going now and if we do not manage actually to drive down (HIV) incidence by other means, then in 40 years…we will still be faced with the same costs,” he says.
    
The South African professor says, however, “If we put in this more radical approach and reduce incidence to very close to zero, (in) 40 years…we will not have a problem to face.”
    
The plan was presented to the American Association for the Advancement of science meeting in San Diego, California.  

You May Like

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid