As Washington gears up to host the 19th International AIDS Conference Sunday, the World Health Organization is issuing a clarion call for strategic use of antiretroviral HIV medications to significantly reduce transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus.
Nurses form the shape of a red ribbon while holding a banner aloft to mark World AIDS Day in Yangzhou, China.
"Every year, more than a million more people in low- and middle-income countries start taking antiretroviral drugs. But for every person who starts treatment, another two are newly infected. Further scale-up and strategic use of the medicines could radically change this. We now have evidence that the same medicines we use to save lives and keep people healthy can also stop people from transmitting the virus and reduce the chance they will pass it to another person," said Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO's director-general.
To strengthen its case, WHO cites a large 2011 multi-country study conducted by the HIV Prevention Trials Network. The findings show that antiretrovirals cut transmission of HIV by 96 percent among "serodiscordant" couples, where one partner is HIV-positive and the other is negative. The findings were also reinforced by another study conducted in South Africa.
Stories of Hope
This year's conference, with the theme "Turning the Tide Together," comes to the United States for the first time since 1990, as a ban prevented HIV-infected people from travelling to the country, AFP reported.
The U.S. ban was formally lifted in 2009. The conference is expected to draw 25,000 people including scientists, policy makers, activists and HIV-positive individuals who will be sharing their story during the course of the six-day conference.
American Timothy Brown, the so-called "Berlin Patient" who was cleared of HIV, is scheduled to take part in the event. The story of his recovery from the dreaded infection on receiving a bone marrow transplant has kindled hope for many, and he is expected to make a renewed call to find permanent cure.
High profile dignitaries gracing the conference will include Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, her husband and former president Bill Clinton, former first lady Laura Bush, singer Elton John, philanthropist Bill Gates and actress Whoopi Goldberg.
Reports published by the United Nations Program on AIDS (UNAIDS) indicate that an estimated 34.2 million people carry the HIV infection worldwide, up 18 percent from 2001, when 28.9 million were identified as HIV-positive.
A year's supply of antiretroviral drugs costs less than $100 per person for the least expensive regimen recommended by U.N. in comparison to over $10,000 recorded in 2000, for the same regimen.
For a detailed view of the HIV-infected across regions, read the Reuters report published in The Huffington Post.
To learn about the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention's initiatives in tracking the latest HIV trends, monitoring risk behavior, and surveillance of affected individuals, click here.
Follow us on LinkedIn