Effective AIDS treatment but poor accessibility: Report from International AIDS conference 2010

At the 18th AIDS conference 2010 in Vienna, Julio Montaner — the President of the International AIDS Society and Chairman of the AIDS 2010 conference said this Sunday that the G-8 countries were not doing enough to ensure treatment of all people infected with HIV and AIDS. He said, “This is a very serious deficit… Let's rejoice in the fact that today we have treatments that work ... what we need is the political will to go the extra mile to deliver universal access.”

According to the World Health Organization, 33.4 million people were living with HIV in 2008. While the numbers of deaths declined to 2 million in 2008 from 2.2 million in 2004, about 2.7 million new infections still occur each year.

The conference has drawn in more than 20,000 policymakers, experts and advocates from nearly 185 countries to look into the magnitude of the problem and take stock of the armaments. There were protests outside the conference regarding the lack of adequate funding. The promises in developing and implementing an Africa-focused package for HIV prevention, treatment and care were made by these G-8 leaders in 2005. But the recent summit of world leaders in Canada last month revealed a report saying “universal access targets with respect to HIV/AIDS will not be met by 2010.”

At present the most effective treatment of HIV/AIDS remains the HAART or highly active antiretroviral therapy. In a British Columbian study, widespread adoption of HAART since 1996 has halved the infection rate in the province. The study appeared online this Sunday in the journal Lancet and at the International AIDS Conference. For every 100 new patients treated, the infection rate went down 3% said Dr. Julio Montaner, director of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse added that, “This study strengthens the evidence that maximizing HAART coverage within current medical guidelines will help to curb the spread of HIV…These findings are especially important since new HIV cases have remained stubbornly steady in the United States at a rate of about 56,000 per year for the past 10 years.” In yet another editorial accompanying the report in the Lancet, Italian physicians wrote, “While waiting for an effective vaccine, experiences such as those reported today should be strongly considered by clinicians, national and international agencies, policymakers, and all parties involved in the development of treatment guidelines, because the population-based dimension of HAART might play an important part in the future control of the HIV epidemic.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also said, “Universal access must remain our beacon — access to lifesaving drugs, access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.”

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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