Bioethics Blogs

Global Effort to End AIDS Would Save Millions of Lives

Scanning electromicrograph of an HIV-infected T cell/NIAID

Almost 37 million people around the world are now infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS [1]. But many don’t know they are infected or lack access to medical care. Even though major strides have been made in treating the infection, less than half receive antiretroviral therapy (ART) that could prevent full-blown AIDS and reduce the likelihood of the virus being transmitted to other people. Now, a new report restores hope that an end to this very serious public health challenge could be within reach—but that will require a major boost in commitment and resources.

The study conducted by an NIH-funded research team evaluated the costs and expected life-saving returns associated with ambitious goals for HIV testing and treatment, the so-called 90-90-90 program, issued by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in 2014 [2]. The new analysis, based on HIV disease progression and treatment data in South Africa, finds that those goals, though expensive to implement, can be achieved cost-effectively, potentially containing the AIDS epidemic and saving many millions of lives around the globe.

The 90-90-90 program pursues three main objectives: diagnose 90 percent of HIV-infected people worldwide, link 90 percent of them to treatment, and suppress the virus in 90 percent of those receiving ART. By meeting these objectives, the program aims to reduce HIV to undetectable levels in 73 percent (.9 x .9 x .9 =.73) of people infected with the virus by 2020. Current estimates suggest that the virus is suppressed to undetectable levels in just 29 percent of HIV-infected individuals globally [3].

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.