Although two-thirds of the people infected by HIV aren’t receiving life-saving drugs, there is still a chance of ending the global AIDS epidemic, according to scientists at the United Nations. With the number of AIDS-related deaths at its lowest from its peak a decade ago, people with HIV are now living nearly as long as those who don’t carry the virus.
Anti-retroviral drugs has helped HIV-positive people from developed countries to live longer, according to a study published recently in The Lancet medical journal. Researchers took data from 200 clinics in Europe, the United States and Australia and found that treatment managed to cut the overall death rate by half. Compared to deaths in the period 1999-2001, in 2009-2011 deaths from AIDS-related causes decreased more than one third. Scientists say that even though anti-retroviral drug combinations cannot kill the AIDS-causing virus, they slow down its development and practically prevent people from getting sick. With this kind of treatment, the life expectancy of HIV-positive people is reaching that of fully healthy people.
The United Nations AIDS agency (UNAIDS) has also reached to a similar conclusion. On Wednesday, it released a report, saying that the number of people with HIV around the world has remained the same from the last couple of year, around 35 million people. However, the AIDS-related deaths are now at their lowest, which gives scientists hope for ending the disease once and for all. The agency said it aims at reducing the deaths and the new cases by 90% by 2030. Other researchers, however, are arguing if that’s even possible and that we may not be at the “beginning of the end of the AIDS epidemic”.
Last year, UNAIDS estimated, there were 35 million people living with HIV around the world, but only about 12.9 million are receiving effective treatment. And around 1.5 million people died from AIDS-related causes. The problem is that there are still some 19 million people in 2014 who don’t even know they are HIV-positive. So stopping the global outbreak by 2030 seems quite unrealistic, considering there is still no actual cure or a vaccine for HIV. Still, the existence of anti-retroviral drugs makes the HIV diagnose a chronic disease, rather than the death sentence it was considered a decade ago.