Published on December 1, 2008 at 5:08 PM
December the 1st 2008 marked the 20th anniversary of World AIDS day - a day when people around the world take stock of the AIDS situation and consider those who have died from the disease and those who are struggling to live with it.
Experts say in the last decade the infection rate in Australia has been slowly rising and now more than ever the safe sex message is important - in the the ACT and NSW the infection rate has remained relatively stable but in other areas, particularly Victoria and Queensland, there has been a significant increase.
According to a group of HIV specialists at the World Health Organisation (WHO), universal and annual voluntary testing could reduce new HIV cases by 95% within 10 years - these predicted results are based on a a mathematical model which found that such testing followed by immediate antiretroviral therapy treatment (irrespective of clinical stage or CD4 count) can achieve such results.
While experts say everyone needs to take responsibility for their own health and individuals have the power to avoid HIV by simply following the rules of safe sex, the authors of the study say universal voluntary testing followed by immediate ART could have additional public health benefits such as reducing the incidence of tuberculosis and the transmission of HIV from mother to child.
Such testing they say could result in a significant reduction of HIV-related deaths in poor countries struggling to cope with HIV epidemics.
At present the WHO policy on HIV treatment involves voluntary testing and clinical and/or immunological evaluation (e.g. CD4 count) to determine eligibility for treatment with antiretrovirals and WHO recommend preventive interventions including male circumcision, partner reduction, correct and consistent use of condoms, and interventions targeting most-at-risk populations, also known as "combination prevention."
A meeting early next year aims to bring together all those involved in HIV prevention to discuss issues relating to the wider use of antiretroviral therapy.
The study is published in The Lancet.