How close are we to eradicating HIV? - Philip A. Chan
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By testing everyone and providing antiretroviral treatment to those that are HIV positive, we have the potential to end HIV transmission. Numerous challenges exist to this approach which is often referred to as “Test and Treat”. When people are first infected with HIV, they often don’t know it and may not have any signs or symptoms for years. People often do not think they are at risk of HIV and may not realize they are infected. One of the most important steps in staying negative is for people who may be at-risk of HIV is to be tested on a regular basis (e.g. once a year or more often). If a person does test HIV positive, it is important they receive care from a medical provider who is experienced in HIV treatment and can provide antiretrovirals. Once on antiretrovirals, a person needs to take them daily and check in periodically with their medical provider. When someone becomes undetectable after being on antiretrovirals for about 3-6 months, they will not transmit HIV to others.
There are several ways that a person can prevent HIV. The most common way that HIV is transmitted is through sex. Other than being routinely tested, the steps a person can take to prevent HIV include using condoms, limiting the number of sexual partners you have, being monogamous with a single partner, or abstaining from sex altogether. There is also an oral medication called pre-exposure prophylaxis or “PrEP” that can prevent people from acquiring HIV. When PrEP is taken consistently, it can significantly reduce the risk of becoming HIV infected. People who are continuously at-risk of HIV, should consider PrEP [see if PrEP is available in your country]. Importantly, people should also be routinely tested for other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. These and other STIs all increase the chances of acquiring HIV [CDC]. However, unlike HIV, many STI’s are curable. People who are at-risk should be tested routinely for these STIs as these infections, similarly to HIV, may not have any signs or symptoms.
There is no single one “answer” to ending the HIV epidemic. Ensuring that people who are HIV positive are on antiretrovirals and undetectable combined with other HIV prevention approaches has the potential to end the epidemic. Importantly, the ability for people to access healthcare across the world is a critical. During the past few decades, global advances have been made to reduce the burden of the HIV epidemic in various settings. Under the Sustainable Development Goals, there has been a call for global collaboration and action to end transmission of HIV/AIDS by 2030. Do your part in the fight against HIV/AIDS by being tested and spreading awareness about HIV prevention.
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