Today is World Aid’s Day. According to CNN, over 33 million people are living with the HIV infection worldwide. More than 1 million of them are in the United States with about 56,000 infected yearly. Certain populations have a higher share of the infected including gay/bisexual men and African Americans.
More than 1/5 of those infected in the United States are unaware that they have HIV. 45% of new HIV infections worldwide are in people aged 15-24. Although great strides have been made in containing the disease and developing medication to extend life expectancy/quality of life of those who live with the disease, there is still much to do.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health and CNN Contributor wrote:
“Now is the time for the medical community and policymakers to embrace U.S. guidelines for all Americans aged 13-64 to be tested in routine medical care. Barriers to implementation of HIV testing guidelines, such as state laws that mandate counseling with testing or not paying for routine medical care, must be removed.
Meanwhile, we also must continue to invest in the next generation of treatment and prevention modalities. Encouragingly, new means of preventing HIV infection are emerging from well-designed and well-implemented clinical research trials.
One exciting concept is pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP, giving preventive doses of anti-HIV drugs to individuals who are at an increased risk of HIV infection. This still-experimental strategy is based on the concept that if HIV replication can be inhibited immediately following exposure to the virus, permanent infection might be thwarted. Multiple clinical studies of PrEP are under way in the United States and in populations around the world. Ongoing research to develop microbicidal gels or creams to be applied before sex offer the hope of people being able to protect themselves from HIV infection in situations where saying no to sex or insisting on condom use is not an option.
Finally, a preventive HIV vaccine remains the greatest hope for halting the relentless spread of HIV/AIDS. We must solve the mystery of how to prompt the human body to produce a protective immune response against HIV, which natural infection with the virus seems unable to do.
Historically, it has taken decades to find effective vaccines to combat most infectious diseases. Researchers usually experienced numerous setbacks and disappointments before reaching success, yet they persevered. Finding a safe and effective HIV vaccine demands an equally intense resolve.” (World AIDS Day 2008: Much accomplished, much to do- Dec 1, 2008)
Living in San Francisco and knowing individuals who are HIV+ brings home that this disease is ever present and that there is still very much we all can do to contribute and support the cause.
One local organization to get involved in is http://www.sfaf.org/
For more information go to: www.worldaidsday.org/