This year’s International AIDS Conference convened yesterday amid a dark mood both here and globally: the pall of the Aurora massacre hung at home, and abroad the world gnashed its teeth over fresh fears about Europe’s financial bomb exploding, and an actual bomb in Iraq claimed more victims than any attack this year.
But in D.C. there was some good news: Scientists can now see a generation free of AIDS in the not so distant future.
USA today reports Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said “There is no excuse scientifically to say we cannot do it. What we need now is the political and organizational will to implement what science has given us.”
The new optimism around an “AIDS-free generation” stems in part from recent discoveries that those treated with the latest anti-retroviral medications become “virtually non-contagious.”
Access to the drugs in developing nations where infection is rampant has increased from just 50,000 in 2003 to over 4 million today. Scientists think that if treatment can be offered to more of the 35 million infected with HIV worldwide, contagion can be virtually arrested.
On top of that, there are promising developments in finding a full-on cure. Scientists are studying cases in which people have developed natural immunity and exploring ways to replicate the process. They’re also working developing drugs to bring dormant HIV cells out of hiding and kill them immediately, defusing the disease before it can do harm.
The US aid package PEPFAR, the now $48 billion plan for AIDS relief signed into law by George W. is up for renewal next year. Hopefully the spending hawks won’t put it on the chopping block.
[Image via Wired]