‘Historic moment’ in the global HIV/AIDS response

By Mary Jane Maxwell

For the first time in modern history, the world has the opportunity “to change the very course of the HIV pandemic, by actually controlling it without a vaccine or a cure,” according to the latest U.S. report on HIV/AIDS relief.

“We want to look back together and recognize that it was here, at this point in time, that our accelerated focus led to a world free of HIV/AIDS,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said as he released the Strategy for Accelerating HIV/AIDS Epidemic Control (2017-2020) from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

The news comes in advance of World AIDS Day, on December 1, when the global community dedicates itself to helping those who are living with or at risk of HIV and supporting the caregivers, families, friends and communities that support them.

Five African countries — Malawi, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe — are now close to controlling the HIV epidemic, according to the PEPFAR report. Achieving control assumes that if people with HIV are tested early in their infection and immediately begin treatment, then the virus will become suppressed in their bloodstream and that will decrease the onward transmission of HIV in the population.

Not too long ago, that might have seemed impossible in those countries.

`90-90-90′ framework
The latest PEPFAR strategy targets 13 countries that have the most communities vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and that have the potential to control HIV by 2020: Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, Haiti, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Rwanda, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The U.S., through PEPFAR, will work with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS to achieve by 2020 what is called the 90-90-90 framework:

90 percent of people who are HIV infected will be diagnosed.
90 percent of people who are diagnosed will be on antiretroviral treatment.
90 percent of those who receive antiretrovirals will be virally suppressed.
PEPFAR also will continue to invest in more than 50 countries to maintain life-saving testing and treatment and increase services for children who have lost a parent or caretaker to HIV/AIDS.

“Our support — and our commitment — are unwavering as we work together to control and ultimately end this pandemic, once and for all,” Tillerson said.