As World AIDS Day approaches, taking place on Dec. 1 each year, there is as always much work to be done, but there is also cause for celebration.
Each year it seems we get closer to the ultimate goal of controlling and eradicating this global epidemic that first began making headlines over 30 years ago.
Three historic firsts are among the victories that can be celebrated this year.
HIV vaccine heads to large-scale trial
An HIV vaccine able to treat all strains of the virus is heading into large-scale human efficacy testing for the first time.
The announcement came at the Global Citizen Festival, in New York City, on Sept. 23.
“For the past ten years, we have been working on an HIV vaccine, using an innovative technology platform, the same technology we are using to make vaccines for Ebola and Zika,” said Paul Stoffels, Chief Scientific Officer, Johnson & Johnson.
“In early stage clinical studies, we have seen 100 percent immune response in 350 healthy volunteers who participated in the study,” he noted, adding the results make him “more optimistic than ever” that a vaccine will be achieved in our lifetime.
You can watch the announcement below.
CDC declares that undetectable means untransmittable
Coming in line with what many advocates have been saying for years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finally came out publicly to declare that those who are HIV positive but undetectable due to antiretroviral therapy cannot pass on the infection.
This is true even of unprotected sex, although safer sex practices are still encouraged.
“This is the moment we have been waiting for! The CDC agreed today there is ‘effectively no risk’ of sexually transmitting HIV when on treatment and undetectable,” Bruce Richman, executive director of UequalsU.org and the Prevention Access Campaign, told Plus.
Over half of all HIV positive people are now receiving treatment
For the first time in history, over half of those living with HIV are now receiving treatment.
19.5 million of the estimated 36.7 million people living with the virus now receive lifesaving antiretroviral drugs, according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
The Middle East, North Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia remain trouble spots where deaths are on the rise as patients lack access to treatment. Still, the picture nationwide has never been this encouraging.
“Communities and families are thriving as AIDS is being pushed back,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said.
“As we bring the epidemic under control, health outcomes are improving and nations are becoming stronger,” he added.
Treatment not only allows people to live longer, but as described above, it can help prevent the infection from spreading, as the virus becomes undetectable over time.