BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

The Success and Woes of HIV/AIDS at a Crossroad



Undoubtedly, commitment to the global prevention and control of HIV/AIDS pandemic continues to increase with great significance in recent years. However, the virus has remained persistent in spreading- almost to the point of ridiculing the much effort and work put into its control. According to a report by UNAIDS, an estimated 40 million people were living with HIV infection or disease by the end of 2005; a notable increase compared to the about 35 million people living with the virus in 2001. Additionally, about 5 million new HIV infections and 3 million AIDS deaths occurred in 2005- much more in both cases when compared to the previous years.

Despite these discouraging statistics about the rapid spread of HIV, some countries have achieved significant progress through successful projects and programs in reducing this spread and transmission. The much effort and corresponding progress of HIV prevention and control is demonstrated by the many success stories and programs in different countries and regions across the world:

  • Thailand’s 100% condom program
  • Uganda’s remarkable decrease in HIV prevalence
  • Tanzania’s community-based management of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Development and effective use of highly sensitive and specific HIV screening tests, which have nearly eliminated blood infection in the developed world and in some parts of the developing world
  • Introduction of anti-retroviral drugs (ART) in the late 1980s which commenced a revolution in the management of HIV that can be compared to the advent of penicillin in the 1940s
  • Administration of ART to mothers during labor and to newborns post-partum which reduces the risk of mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) by about 47%
  • Use of combination ART, which is much more effective than mono-therapy
  • Decrease in the cost of antiretroviral therapy in developing countries, prompting its expansion through the public sector

Good as the many success stories and achievements in HIV/AIDS prevention and control seem, a few woes, challenges or drawbacks are not lacking. Some of these obstacles include:

  • Viral mutation: Mutations in HIV type 1 are a major impediment to the achievement of successful treatment and the development of vaccines. Although treatment has made long-term suppression of HIV a reality, drug resistance, drug toxicity, drug penetration and poor adherence to therapy are some of the most significant challenges that hinder cure and eradication of the virus.
  • Lack of access to services: Irrespective of the progress in treatment of HIV, global efforts have not proved adequate to control the spread of the pandemic or to extend the lives of those infected. The desired level of success has not yet been achieved because many people who could benefit from available HIV control strategies and services; including treatment, lack access to them.
  • Lack of Rigorous Evaluations: In addition to the above mentioned challenges, lack of reliable evidence to guide the improvement and selection of interventions for specific areas or populations has remained a barrier to effective HIV/AIDS control.
  • Funding cuts: UNAIDS and the US-based Kaiser Family Foundation report that international AIDS funding was stagnant at $7.6 billion in 2009- the first year ever without an increase. More so, the funding for 2010 further declined, showing an actual drop from 2009 levels, the first significant decline in AIDS donor funding since the beginning of the pandemic.

It is important to continue studying and understanding the factors that place individuals and populations at risk of HIV as well to identify safe, acceptable, accessible and cost-effective interventions that can be implemented and evaluated for improvement. It is only through a continued commitment to HIV research, prevention, treatment and control that this generation can conquer the HIV pandemic, and declare it history.

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