Thandeka Moyo recently in Madrid, Spain, Health Reporter
HIV and Aids can be eradicated worldwide by 2030 if every infected person diligently goes on Anti Retroviral (ARV) therapy, experts have said.
Experts attending a five-day 2018 HIV Research for Prevention International Conference in Madrid, Spain said governments should prioritise availing treatment for everyone who tests positive.
They said delays in initiating all HIV positive people on antiretroviral therapy is a stumbling block towards ending HIV in 2030 especially in Africa with Zimbabwe having about 300 000 people who are not accessing the life saving medication.
The Conference ended last Friday.
In an interview, Dr Anthony Fauci from the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) said the issue of stigma on infected people and key populations is also hindering progress.
“If you treat someone who is HIV infected and you bring down the level of the virus to below detectable level, it may be very difficult if not impossible for that person to transmit the virus to an uninfected sexual partner. That means if you can identify everyone of the 36 million people with HIV in the world, put them on antiretroviral combination of drugs to bring their viral load to below detectable level, you can theoretically end the epidemic tomorrow,” he said.
He said the reluctance by governments to invest in ART and health services may reverse the gains of the fight against HIV.
“In order for the epidemic to be properly contained in the developing world, particularly in Sub Saharan Africa, there needs to be great commitment from governments in building health systems. They should ensure there is access to therapy and that will provide for people at risk the pre-exposure prophylaxis,” said Dr Fauci.
Of the 1,3 million HIV positive people in Zimbabwe, 13 percent still cannot access ART which increases their chances of transmitting the virus to others.
According to Dr Fauci, the government should complement efforts by the Global Fund, PePFAR and other organisations who are funding ART in heavily burdened countries like Zimbabwe by addressing stigma.
“One of the biggest stumbling blocks towards an adequate approach to HIV is the stigma that exists in society about being infected, if you are gay or associated with populations that are getting infected. Stigma gets in the way of responding adequately to the outbreak so we need more resources, better health systems and you need elimination of stigma,” he said.
“We have made extraordinary science advancements in the areas of both treatment and prevention. By treating infected people, we save their lives and eliminate their chance of spreading the disease which may help us end HIV”.
According to the UNAids 2018 report, 14 out of every 100 people are HIV infected in Zimbabwe which places the country at number five in Africa in terms of HIV prevalence.
Approximately 25 900 people died of Aids-related causes in 2016 which translates to 71 deaths per day. This is a decrease from 278 deaths per day that were recorded in 2005.
The conference, which is the world’s only scientific meeting dedicated exclusively to biomedical HIV prevention, brings together more than 1 400 researchers, policy makers, advocates, funders and community members committed to bringing an end to the global epidemic.
It also includes the latest research on every form of biomedical prevention, while also addressing the cross-cutting implementation, adherence, trial design and product approval challenges that transcend individual fields of research. — @thamamoe