AFTER the devastation that HIV/AIDS has wreaked in the past 30 years, we may be living, finally, in the possibility of an AIDS-free generation.
Expanded access to and coverage of high-quality prevention and treatment services tailored to affected populations have been critical to keeping people living with HIV healthy and dramatically reducing the number of new HIV infections.
Research has shown that early initiation of antiretroviral therapy – known as pre-exposure prophylaxis – can both improve individual patient outcomes and reduce the risk of HIV transmission to sexual partners by 96%.
The most promising is an AIDS vaccine, the quest for which has been reinvigorated after a series of unsuccessful trials. If there were to be a vaccine with just 60% efficacy, it could reduce new HIV infections by 25% in its first decade and by almost half in 25 years, averting up to 22 million infections, according to modelling by IAVI, AVAC and Futures Institute.
Science is closing in on an AIDS vaccine. Researchers are learning more about how HIV changes in the body and varies by geography; what the potential targets are on this highly elusive and mutating virus; how antibodies and our own T-cells could help prevent and even clear HIV infection; and how different vectors might be used to make a future vaccine more effective and longer-lasting.
What long seemed impossible is now almost within reach; the control of the HIV pandemic may be achievable. Its greatest impact will be on the countries hardest hit by the disease, as the table below shows.