Researchers in Australia say they now receive so few cases of people with HIV developing Aids in any one year, they can say they have "beaten" the disease. At its peak 1,000 people a year died from Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Aids) in Australia, but new drug treatments now work so well that the number of new cases are so low, they are no longer recorded.
Anti-retroviral medication has been incredibly successful in combating the effects of HIV – the virus that causes the Aids condition. In the 1980s anyone who developed HIV was almost certain to die but now Australia joins a growing list of countries where this is no longer the case.
Professor Andrew Grulich, head of the HIV Epidemiology and Prevention Program at Australia's Kirby Institute, told Australian TV network ABC: "These days we don't even monitor it. It's a transitory thing for most people; people have Aids, then they go on treatment and they don't have Aids anymore."
Calling the change of incidence of Aids "nothing short of miraculous" Professor Grulich went on: "It's pretty much dealt with as a public health issue. The only cases we see of Aids these days are people undiagnosed with HIV and so they can't be treated."
Grulich sounded a note of caution, however. Many young people unaware of the devastation caused by Aids in the 1980s may not always understand the potential dangers. From when Aids was first identified in the early 1980s to the present day, around 34 million people have died of the disease. And although wealthy countries have managed to control the virus poorer countries are still decimated by its effects.
Across Asia and the Pacific 180,000 cases of Aids and 1.2 million cases of HIV are reported each year. According to the United Nations, 36 million people worldwide are still living with HIV or AIDS. Only half of those diagnosed are receiving antiretroviral therapy.
HIV and Aids facts
- HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus.
- It can take 10-15 years for HIV to damage the immune system to the point Aids develops.
- HIV is found in semen, blood, vaginal and anal fluids, and breast milk.
- HIV cannot be transmitted through sweat, saliva or urine.
- HIV infections can occur by having anal or vaginal sex without a condom with an infected person, using infected needles, syringes or other drug-taking equipment, or from mother-to-child during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding.
- AIDS stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome. It is also referred to as advanced HIV infection or late-stage HIV.
- Someone with Aids may also develop pneumonia, thrush, fungal infections, TB, toxoplasmosis and cytomegalovirus.
- Aids also increases the risk of developing other life-limiting conditions, including cancer.
- People with HIV may live long lives, if they receive the correct medication.