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

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network 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.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs