Clinton says HIV drugs can help lead to 'Aids-free generation'

 

WASHINGTON – The US set a new direction for its global Aids campaign yesterday, emphasising HIV-fighting drugs that can prevent new infections to bring the goal of “an AIDS-free generation” within reach, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said.

Mrs Clinton, outlining new priorities for the US global Aids programme started in 2003, said drug treatments, combined with new efforts to stop mother-to-child transmission of HIV and the preventive effect of expanded voluntary male circumcision, had changed the Aids battle plan.

“Creating an Aids-free generation has never been a policy priority for the United States government – until today,” Mrs Clinton said in a speech at the US National Institutes of Health outside Washington.

“This goal would have been unimaginable just a few years ago,” she said. “While the finish line is not yet in sight, we know we can get there because now we know the route we need to take.”

The US, through its President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief programme, has channelled billions of dollars into the fight against HIV/Aids, which has infected more than 60 million people and killed nearly 30 million since it was first reported in 1981.

The US programme has been a major factor in the global response to HIV. In 2010, nearly $16 billion (€11.6 billion) was spent on HIV response in low- and middle-income countries, according to the UN Programme on HIV/Aids. It estimates that at least $22 billion will be needed to combat the disease by 2015, helping avert 12 million new infections and 7.4 million more deaths in the next decade.

Strides have been made in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV, integrating prevention and treatment efforts with broader health programmes.

Voluntary male circumcision also has been shown to cut the risk of female-to-male transmission by more than 60 per cent, and since 2007 more than one million men have been voluntarily circumcised.

But drug treatment appears the most promising. A series of studies in the past year have shown that drugs used to treat HIV can also dramatically reduce the risk of new infection among heterosexual couples – fuelling discussion on whether Aids money is best spent on drugs or traditional prevention programmes, such as condoms, counselling, testing and education.

Mrs Clinton said the answer was clear. “Treatment doesn’t take away from prevention. It adds to it,” she said. – (Reuters)