July 18, 2011
Organizers applauded recent news of antiretroviral therapy's efficacy in preventing new HIV infections during a press conference in Rome on Sunday, the opening day of the 6th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention. "This conference could well be a turnaround," said Elly Katabira, IAS president.
Simply treating those with HIV reduced the partners' risk of infection by 96 percent in a recent African study of serodiscordant couples. Two other African trials showed that the uninfected, by daily taking oral ARVs as pre-exposure prophylaxis, could cut their risk of heterosexually acquiring HIV by 62 percent or more.
"Treatment is prevention, and these three studies provide the proof," said Katabira. "The results presented this week could prove today as important as the antiretrovirals breakthroughs of the mid-90s."
The news is "a game-changing moment for all of us ... the first time we can talk of control of HIV," Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS, said in his keynote speech.
"There is an extraordinary window of opportunity, and the sooner we act on it and the more robustly we act on it the quicker we'll achieve the goal of turning around the epidemic," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "Pure, simple math tells you that the fewer people who are infected, the fewer the people who are going to get infected."
HIV treatment as prevention "could pay for itself in about a decade," argued Jean-Paul Moatti, an economics professor at the University of the Mediterranean in Marseille. "Countries would have lower health costs and better productivity because fewer people fall sick."
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