The U.S. has been gaining momentum in its fight against HIV but the number of new infections, about 50,000 per year over the past decade, continues to persist, federal officials said Wednesday. The epidemic still largely concentrates on gay men and rates of new infection have also been rapidly rising in young black men.
Activists maintain that the persistent HIV infection rate shows that the current government prevention policy is ineffective. Federal officials said that the epidemic will continue to gain momentum if prevention is not improved and that budget cuts make it a sort of uphill battle.
Many researchers believe that it is impossible to annihilate a fatal, incurable disease that is transmitted through sex and carries with it social stigma.
Epidemiologists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that new cases peaked at 130,000 a year in the 1980s and slowly decreased during the 1990s, becoming flat at 50,000 around 2000.
We need a global scientific strategy in order to eradicate AIDS, said researchers at the 6th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention.
"Fifteen years ago, even the most optimistic members of the scientific community were silent about the prospect of an HIV cure or vaccine," IAS 2011 International Chair and IAS President, Elly Katabira said.
"Today, there is a reemergence of hope that the long-term remission of an infected individual is a realistic objective. The IAS is proud to be leading the coordination of the research effort and we look forward to the unveiling of the global scientific strategy at the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington next year," Katabira added.
Canadian HIV researcher Dr. Julio Montaner said July 14 that pre-exposure prophylaxis should be used worldwide in order to derail the AIDS epidemic after two HIV studies in Africa revealed that antiretroviral drugs used in combination with anti-retroviral therapy helps treat HIV and prevents transmission through decreasing contagiousness. The studies found that taking a daily pill containing antiretroviral drugs can reduce HIV transmission by as much as 75% in heterosexual couples.
Chief of AIDS prevention for the CDC Dr. Kevin Fenton said that 50,000 is an "unacceptably high level," and that "we're likely to face an era of rising infection rates."
On the bright side, the relentless over funding prevention versus treatment has seemingly died. Experts who have consistently advocated for "educating the healthy" rather than "healing the already dead" will likely see that prevention can be used as an extension of treatment.