HIV epidemic ‘could end by 2030’

2013-10-01 17:02

Ending the HIV epidemic by 2030 is a strong possibility, but only if the current commitment to HIV prevention and treatment strategies is intensified, respected HIV clinician Professor Francois Venter has said.

Last week, UNAIDS released a report, according to which the global epidemic could end by 2030.

What this means is that countries like South Africa, with a high incidence and prevalence, could see a sharp decrease in the number of people newly infected with HIV, while in countries that are the least affected at present may report a near elimination of the disease.

Venter said: “There is a lot of international evidence that shows that the rate of HIV incidence (new cases) is going down and prevalence (the total number of people infected) is increasing because people are no longer dying of Aids-related illnesses.”

He attributed this shift to the use of condoms and HIV treatment. He explained that because of these achievements the epidemic is stabilising, not only in South Africa but the world over.

In South Africa, an estimated 6.4 million people were living with HIV last year and about 2 million of them were on treatment. The Human Sciences Research Council reported a decrease in the rate of Aids-related deaths as well as the number of new infections.

For this reason, Venter believes there is a possibility that the HIV epidemic could come to an end by 2030.

He explains: “The nature of infectious diseases is that it usually affects a high number of people when it emerges. The numbers of infected persons dwindles as the years go by because there is treatment and people are also aware of how to prevent them.”

UNAIDS declared in its annual report, released last week, that the HIV epidemic could end by 2030.

In the report, which assesses global progress made in the fight against HIV and Aids, it stated that there was a strong possibility that HIV may not be an epidemic 16 years from now.

It based its statement on the fact that the cases of new HIV infections and Aids-related deaths have significantly decreased in recent years. It showed that new HIV infections globally had decreased by at least 33% compared with 2001, when new infections stood at 3.4 million. It also revealed that Aids-related deaths decreased by 30% from 2.3 million in 2005 to 1.6 million in 2012.

Dr Francesca Conradie, president of the SA HIV Clinicians Society, said: “There is no magic pill for HIV, but prevention and treatment could reduce the rate of incidence, which in turn can have an impact on the epidemic.”

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