A new energy animates the hallways of the Washington Convention Center this week, as leaders and advocates commit to a goal once thought impossible: ending the AIDS pandemic.
Attendees at the AIDS 2012 Conference here in Washington, and at conference hubs from Nairobi to Chennai, are telling the world that we can end the AIDS pandemic. Among the astonishing accomplishments in our battles against other infectious diseases that allow us to believe this bold claim, is the long-sought eradication of polio. The world learned in January that one of the last holdouts of this viral disease – India – has not recorded a single new case of natural polio infection for more than one year. Polio still needs to be defeated in a small number of countries, but one of its most stubborn reservoirs of the virus is clearly being drained. That is no small feat.
How was this extraordinary feat accomplished?
In short: through massive immunization campaigns and people working together around the world to end a common threat.
HIV is, admittedly, a far more challenging foe. The virus attacks our body’s immune cells, changes its appearance ceaselessly and incorporates itself into our DNA, where it cannot be extinguished. The deviousness of HIV has long challenged the brightest minds of science. But it is nonetheless a challenge that can be overcome—if, that is, we commit ourselves to supporting research and building on the progress scientists have made so far.
In the last three years alone, clinical studies have demonstrated that preventive HIV vaccines and microbicides are possible. Other research has shown that antiretroviral therapies can be used in various ways to prevent HIV transmission as well. Meanwhile, voluntary medical male circumcision is increasingly being used to reduce the risk of HIV infection.
Each and every one of these strategies must be added to the existing toolkit for HIV prevention—and used together as a tour de force—if we are to end the AIDS pandemic.
New impact modeling, conducted jointly by the Futures Institute and IAVI, suggests that the full implementation of the UNAIDS Investment Framework by 2015 could help turn the tide of this pandemic. The subsequent development and deployment of a broadly effective AIDS vaccine could then further bend the curve and bring us closer to truly ending the AIDS pandemic.
Recent advances have fueled optimism and lent a new momentum to the field of HIV vaccine R&D. This momentum must be sustained. IAVI and its many partners around the world are racing to build on this progress. We invite you to join us in our efforts.