The National Institutes of Health released a statement today, a day after World AIDS Day, summarizing progress in the fight against the disease. The statement authored by Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Jack Whitescarver, PhD, director, NIH Office of AIDS Research; and Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, NIH director said work still needs to be done to rid the world of AIDS.
In 2013, more than 2 million people globally became newly infected with HIV, and 1.5 million people died from AIDS-related causes, according to the statement. The number of new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths has dropped by more than one-third in the past decade largely because of advances in HIV prevention and greater access to antiretroviral therapy. However, far too many adults and children continue to become HIV-infected and die from the effects of the virus, including here in the United States.
The NIH reaffirmed its commitment to finding tools for preventing HIV infection (including a vaccine), improved treatments and a cure.
More than 30 antiretroviral drugs and drug combinations are available for treating HIV infection, according to the statement, however, access to treatment in the U.S. and abroad is still problematic. Given the proven therapeutic and preventive benefits of antiretroviral drugs, it is imperative that these medicines be deployed on a wider scale to achieve their greatest effect, according to the statement.
The NIH statement addressed the need for more access to medical care and testing services in the U.S. and abroad. Current NIH-funded studies are exploring options such as expanded voluntary HIV testing and prevention services, linking HIV-infected individuals to care and antiretroviral treatment and, in the Sustainable East Africa Research of Community Health study in Uganda and Kenya, examining whether improved access to antiretroviral treatment can improve the overall health of the community.
Additionally, the NIH continues to investigate new HIV prevention tools for those most at risk for HIV infection, including heterosexual women in high-prevalence settings, and men who have sex with men.
While we have effective treatment and prevention tools that have made a significant impact in the fight against HIV/AIDS, the goal to end AIDS would likely be achieved faster and be more sustainable with an effective vaccine or cure, according to the statement. However, researchers must learn a great deal more to develop either intervention. With regard to vaccines, scientists are making progress in the laboratory and in animal studies to better understand the human immune responses and other factors needed to develop a protective HIV vaccine.
In regards to finding a cure, the statement said a major challenge is HIVs ability to rapidly establish hidden reservoirs in the body, a problem being addressed by researchers working to characterize, quantify and even eradicate these reservoirs and develop biomarkers to track their development. On this World AIDS Day, we acknowledge the extraordinary achievements that have been made through the dedication of scientists, healthcare professionals and clinical trial participants, and look ahead to achieving an end to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the statement said.
For more information, visit: http://www.nih.gov/news/health/dec2014/niaid-02.htm