The battle against HIV-AIDS is being compromised by the global financial crisis, despite recent scientific advances that are paving the way for a future where management and prevention of the virus is sustainable, delegates heard at the AIDS 2012 conference in Washington, DC in the US.
Dr Elly Katabira, AIDS 2012 international chair and president of the International AIDS Society (IAS), said that the tide was turning against the spread of HIV-AIDS, but governments and organisations needed to continue to support both research and care.
“To do so, we need to adapt ourselves to a changing environment and that means coming up with new and effective ways of delivering services to the most-affected groups of people in a tough global economic environment,” she said.
“But it is also incumbent on donors and national decision makers to bite the bullet and maintain funding of all facets of HIV/AIDS programmes now that we can see that tools such as scaling up treatment as prevention have the potential to turnaround the epidemic.”
It was a message backed by Diane Havlir AIDS 2012 US co-chair and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, who was also speaking at the event where 22,000 scientists, policy makers, people living with HIV and other stakeholders are in attendance throughout this week.
“Continue to invest in science – that is my message to all the decision makers watching us this week in DC”, said Havlir. ”All the scientists responsible for the huge breakthroughs over the past few years are here at AIDS 2012 and accompanying them are many others who bring with them compelling new data on the latest HIV drugs, HIV cure research, new TB drugs and creative financing models.”
These recent developments include the launch of Gilead's Truvada in the US as the first drug approved to help prevent the spread of the virus in at-risk populations.
However, as described in the Towards an HIV Cure report published by the International AIDS Society (IAS) ahead of the AIDS 2012 conference, the costs associated with delivering antiretroviral drugs to people currently living with AIDS in developing nations is “overwhelming many organisations and public health systems”.
Estimates put this cost by 2015 to be between $22-24bn per year and between $19-35bn per year by 2031, with antiretroviral treatment accounting for up to 70 per cent of the total cost of care in the most affected countries.
The current global spend is only $16.8bn though, meaning another $5bn to $7bn needs to be found to ensure and improve management of AIDS in resource-poor countries by 2015.
The report, which aims to provide a roadmap for research towards a cure for HIV, suggests that such a goal may actually be achievable, and indeed necessary, considering the cost of treatment.
“The science has been telling us for some time now that achieving a cure for HIV infection could be a realistic possibility,” said Françoise Barré-Sinoussi co-discoverer of the HIV virus, director of the Regulation of Retroviral Infections Unit at the Institut Pasteur in Paris and the IAS president-elect.
“The time is right to take the opportunity to try and develop an HIV cure – we might regret never having tried.”