Vigilance Needed to Sustain Global Fight Against HIV
New amfAR report argues that a cure alone won’t end the epidemic
While there is great hope that a cure for HIV will be discovered in the not-too-distant future, such a development by itself will not automatically spell an end to the epidemic.
Using tuberculosis (TB) and malaria as examples, a new amfAR report shows how global efforts to eradicate widespread diseases can fail even when effective cures are available. Despite TB and malaria being preventable and curable, almost two million people continue to die every year from these diseases.
“Our experience with TB and malaria shows us that the development of effective medical interventions—even cures—is only one step in the control of disease,” said Alana Sharp, a policy associate at amfAR and the primary author of the report.
Elimination of both TB and malaria has been hampered by lack of timely and accurate diagnosis, drug resistance, and insufficient research and development. These factors predict similar challenges to eradicating HIV, even in the event of a cure.
HIV drug resistance rates in low- and middle-income countries are lower than in high-income countries, but have increased markedly since antiretroviral therapy was introduced.
Until a cure for HIV is available and accessible, the report recommends the following strategies to prevent new infections and keep people on treatment:
Increase support for implementation research to ensure engagement along the care continuum. Evidence-driven, patient-centered, and cost-effective methods must be developed to dramatically improve rates of diagnosis and retention in care.
Increase research and development funding aimed at developing new treatments and diagnostic technologies. Research must continue to find new pharmaceutical treatments and to develop technologies to identify HIV immediately after infection and to test for drug resistance at diagnosis.
Sustain political commitment to HIV.
Achieving an end of HIV will require continuing political and financial commitment from donor governments, multilateral and philanthropic organizations, and pharmaceutical organizations, and HIV programming must be integrated within existing national health programs.
Read the full report, How Cures Can Fail