News

    Much Progress, Much to Do on HIV

    A patient suffering from HIV is taken to a local hospital in Harare, January 31, 2012.
    A patient suffering from HIV is taken to a local hospital in Harare, January 31, 2012.
    Joe DeCapua

    In July, the world’s largest AIDS conference will be held in Washington, D.C. About 20 thousand delegates from 200 countries and more than two thousand journalists are expected to attend AIDS 2012. This will be the first time the event has been held in the United States since 1990. In the lead-up to the conference, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has given an update on the epidemic at home and abroad.

    Many losses along the way

    Dr. Thomas Frieden spoke at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    “It’s possible, I think, to forget just how bad the HIV epidemic has been. HIV has already killed in this country as many people as died in all wars since the civil war,” he said.

    And around the world, he said HIV/AIDS remains the biggest infectious disease challenge more than 30 years into the epidemic.

    “There have been 65 million HIV infections and 30 million deaths since this epidemic started. In 2010 alone there were 2.7 million new infections and 1.8 million deaths. So the number of people infected continues to grow from 34 million and up,” he said.

    Most of the infections and deaths have occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. In the early days, before the illness had a name, it was called slim disease, because people were wasting away.

    “At the peak of the AIDS epidemic in Africa, HIV accounted for two-thirds of all adult deaths. Can you imagine what that would be like in our own village, our own community? There were communities in which the only business that was increasing was the funeral business,” he said.

    Frieden said he remembers trying to treat hundreds of patients in the early days of the epidemic. But there was no treatment. Things began to change around 1996 when the first antiretroviral drugs came on the scene. There was initial hope that these were a cure. But it was then realized the drugs could suppress the virus, but not kill it. However, at least in developed countries, the drugs, despite many side effects, could extend lives.

    Much has changed since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The 2011 global AIDS progress report says annual incidence of HIV has fallen since 2001 in 33 countries, 22 of them in sub-Saharan Africa. And the overall number of deaths has declined since peaking at 2.2 million in 2005. However, infections and deaths are rising in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

    Tipping point

    Nevertheless, Frieden described 2012 at a tipping point. There have been advances in vaccine research, microbicides and especially in the use of antiretroviral drugs.

    He said, “We know that treatment as prevention has been documented to reduce transmission by 96 percent. This is remarkable evidence of progress. We now know that if you’re on treatment not only will you live longer and healthier, but you’ll be 96 percent less likely to spread HIV to others. That’s a game changer.”

    The U.S. government has said the goal of an AIDS-free generation is within reach.

    “Meaning that virtually no child will be born with HIV infection; that adults living with HIV don’t progress to AIDS; that there is a rapid decline in HIV incidence; that combination prevention can turn the tide on the HIV epidemic just as combination antiretroviral treatment can turn the tide on infection in an individual,” he said.

    Frieden said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has played a major role in fighting HIV/AIDS and other diseases. The CDC has worked closely with PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. He praises PEPFAR for getting more people on treatment at lower costs and helping strengthen healthcare systems. The goal is to get many more on antiretroviral treatment, eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV, also known as vertical transmission, and get many more men circumcised to prevent HIV infection.

    AIDS 2012

    The 19th International AIDS Conference will be held in Washington, D.C., from July 22nd to the 27th. The conference hasn’t been held in the U.S. since 1990 because a travel ban had been in effect for those who were HIV positive. The Bush and Obama administrations worked to eventually lift that ban.

    Frieden does expect some protests at AIDS 2012, possibly over budget cuts as nations struggle to recover from the global recession. But he said activists have played a major role over three decades.

    “If it weren’t for the advocacy in HIV we would not be where we are today. Not just in HIV, but in many other diseases. The HIV advocacy community, I think, showed the way for people suffering from a wide variety of health conditions to demand better treatment, to demand faster results, to demand access to the latest information,” he said.

    Frieden says security in health means everyone is connected by “the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat.” He adds, “A risk anywhere is really potentially a risk everywhere.”

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora