On this World AIDS Day, IAVI remembers the women, men and children who have lost their lives to AIDS. We also look ahead to the day when people no longer die because of AIDS, when there are no new cases of HIV, when people no longer experience stigma and discrimination simply because they are living with HIV, and when people no longer are at risk of infection because they are marginalized.
More than 60 million people have been infected with HIV in the last 30 years, and about half of them have died as a result. Since the first cases of opportunistic infections in healthy gay men heralded the emergence of a new disease that would soon become a pandemic, communities, scientists, public health workers and advocates have fought to unravel the biology of AIDS, to stop the spread of HIV, and to support and care for those living with and affected by HIV and AIDS. They are working hard to deliver treatments and develop vaccines and cures for HIV infection in the hope of ending the pandemic once and for all.
This year’s World AIDS Day theme, Getting to Zero, calls for zero new HIV infections, zero new AIDS-related deaths and zero discrimination. Never before has this seemed so possible.
We are finally making progress on the path to ending AIDS. Lifesaving antiretroviral treatment has been available since 1996, and it is now a lot more tolerable and a lot easier to take, although less than half of the people who need treatment have access to it. Targeted HIV prevention strategies – including condoms, male circumcision, prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission and harm reduction for people who use drugs – along with the decrease in transmission from people living with HIV who are on treatment, have helped to stabilize the global rate to 2.7 million new infections each year for the past five years. But we need more resources and better tools to prevent infections. Fortunately, there have been extraordinary advances in HIV science, including significant progress toward the development of preventive vaccines and microbicides, the use of antiretroviral treatments as prophylaxis and even a functional cure. We need long-term political commitment and sustained funding to ensure that this momentum and optimism do not fade away.
IAVI’s mission is to ensure the development of safe, effective, accessible, preventive HIV vaccines for use throughout the world. We are more certain than ever before that a preventive AIDS vaccine is possible, and we are grateful to the scientists, trial participants and communities that are bringing us closer to that goal. We have no doubt that with smartly deployed existing and new prevention tools and access to treatment for all who need it, we can end the AIDS pandemic. On this World AIDS Day, we remind ourselves that AIDS continues to take thousands of lives every day, and we rededicate ourselves to working tirelessly toward the development of an HIV vaccine and to supporting the global effort to curb the AIDS pandemic and its impact.