Insight: AIDS science leaping ahead, but will the money follow?


Last year, the HIV/AIDS community got some startling news: Lifesaving drugs known as antiretrovirals that have brought millions of AIDS sufferers back from the brink also dramatically cut the risk that they will transmit the virus to their loved ones – by as much as 96 percent.

The landmark study, known as the HIV Prevention Trials Network 052 trial, proved that AIDS treatment was also a powerful form of prevention. Science magazine dubbed it the 2011 Breakthrough of the Year. The findings – along with studies on the preventive benefits of circumcision and treating high-risk individuals before they are exposed to HIV – have been heralded as weapons that could finally break the back of the AIDS epidemic. “What was unthinkable just three years ago is now in sight: an AIDS-free generation and the end of this epidemic,” Ambassador Mark Dybul, former U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator for President George W. Bush, said at the 2012 International AIDS Conference in July.

But fully rolling out treatment as prevention would mean more than doubling current HIV treatment goals, from the current United Nations target of treating 15 million by 2015 to 34 million, a staggering increase.

With some recession-strapped donor countries already struggling to meet their current commitments for treatment and prevention programs, AIDS activists worry that money, and not science, could hold up progress in the war on AIDS.

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