July 23, 2012
Science is showing the way to the world's first AIDS-free generation in decades, a senior U.S. health official said Sunday, the first day of the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington.
"There is no excuse, scientifically, to say we cannot do it," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "What we need now is the political and organizational will to implement what science has given us."
The science behind the early initiation of treatment for people with HIV has been "slam-dunk, out of the ballpark," Fauci said. Those whose viral levels are successfully controlled by treatment are virtually not infectious, research has shown. That suggests getting treatment to more people with HIV could be a powerful HIV prevention tool, Fauci said. Some 20 percent of people with HIV do not know they have the virus, and most new infections are spread by the undiagnosed, he said.
"Seek, test, treat and retain" is now the mantra for AIDS advocates, said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Changing the course of HIV/AIDS "is not going to happen spontaneously," Fauci said. "It's going to require purpose and commitment." The National Institutes of Health has spent $50 billion on AIDS since 1982, Fauci noted.
Initially, some people were doubtful about the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which President George W. Bush launched in 2003. The United States committed $15 billion to PEPFAR when few in the developing world had access to treatment, and devoted $48 billion to it in 2008. PEPFAR has provided HIV treatment to almost 4 million people and averted 200,000 mother-to-child infections. PEPFAR is up for re-authorization next year and continues to have bipartisan support in Congress, Fauci said.
07.23.2012; Liz Szabo
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