Editorial:Optimism in the Fight against AIDS

It is a good sign to see a reduction in deaths and transmission among HIV carriers due to antiviral drugs

This World AIDS Day, the outlook regarding the reduction of HIV transmission and deaths related to the Syndrome is encouraging. An analysis by the World Health Organization reflects a 42% reduction in deaths since 2004 ‒ the disease’s peak year ‒ with nearly 7.8 million lives saved in the past 15 year. Meanwhile, new infections dropped 35% in the same period. This is partly a result of the aggressive policies promoted by President George W. Bush to fight the disease in Africa.

The continent has shown the greatest reduction in deaths related to the virus due to the fact that, today, over 11 million people receive antiviral treatments. The medications combat the weaknesses in the carrier’s organism that allow secondary infections to take over while also reducing the risk of transmission. In 2000, the number of people receiving treatment was 11,000, and less than 50,000 in 2003.

That year, the Bush Administration launched the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR,) designed to promote the use of antiviral treatments throughout Africa and overcome the opposition they faced back then. Critics said that the region lacked the necessary structures for such a complex treatment, which requires people to take medication at specific times of the day.

The White House was right in the end and, today, PEPFAR is considered to have been a key factor in the reduction of AIDS worldwide. This is an example of the humanitarian achievements that may be accomplished when efforts are focused on a good cause, political will exists and resources are properly allocated.

Unfortunately, in the home front, antiviral treatments are not available for more than half of the Latinos living with HIV in the U.S. Only 44% of the more than 202,000 Hispanics carrying the virus have access to these medications. Serious problems still exist ‒ such as the stigma prevailing within the community, ‒ leading people to delay getting tested and making early detection harder. Much remains to be done.

The goal of the United Nations’ Agenda for Sustainable Development is to eradicate the epidemic proportions of the disease by 2030. It is an ambitious plan, but the fact that deaths and transmission in areas such as Africa are being reduced allows us to be optimistic.