With 39 million people globally, including 2.4 million in India, living with HIV, the disease continues to be a significant global health crisis. In 2022, the world saw 1.3 million new HIV infections, with India accounting for 63,000. The disease predominantly affects key populations such as sex workers, men having sex with men, transgender individuals, and drug users.
HIV Prevention Challenges and Advances
Despite extensive research and behavioral interventions, the world is yet to see a viable HIV vaccine. The World Health Organization has guidelines to prevent and diagnose opportunistic infections associated with HIV, but their implementation has been far from widespread. Tuberculosis, preventable and treatable, remains a leading cause of death among HIV patients.
The Role of Antiretroviral Therapy
Antiretroviral medications have proven effective in preventing HIV multiplication, allowing individuals with the virus to lead healthy lives if treated early. India has been instrumental in producing generic HIV medicines, significantly contributing to global AIDS control. The early initiation of Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) is not only recommended but also cost-effective. However, not all countries have adopted this practice.
New Developments in HIV Treatment
Long-acting antiretrovirals have recently been approved, transforming HIV into a manageable chronic condition. Non-communicable diseases have also emerged as threats to people living with HIV. A recent study revealed that statin use could potentially reduce cardiovascular risks in HIV patients. The concept of 'Undetectable is Untransmittable' has gained traction, underscoring the efficacy of ART. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medications and long-acting injectable PrEP like Cabotegravir have shown significant promise in preventing HIV.
Despite the prevailing challenges, the global fight against HIV/AIDS has seen progress. If prevention and treatment tools are effectively utilized, the world may witness the end of AIDS-related deaths, marking a historic moment in global health.