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New HIV Treatment Strategy Could Reduce HIV-Related Deaths By 10M In 15 Years, UNAIDS Says

UNAIDS on Tuesday outlined a new strategy, called “Treatment 2.0,” to simplify the provision of HIV treatment and improve global access to antiretrovirals (ARVs), Reuters reports. The agency says the plan could prevent up to 10 million AIDS-related deaths by 2025 and reduce the number of new HIV infections annually by up to one million, if all people in need receive treatment, according to the news service.

UNAIDS used a mathematical model to estimate the numbers of people who would be affected by Treatment 2.0, which was published Tuesday in the UNAIDS Outlook report (.pdf), ahead of the International AIDS Conference – AIDS 2010 (Kelland, 7/13). The Kaiser Family Foundation will provide webcasts of select sessions from AIDS 2010 starting with the Opening Session LIVE at 19:30 CEST/17:30 GMT/1:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 18.

AOL News examines the five pillars of the Treatment 2.0 Strategy, which calls for greater progress in the following areas: development of better HIV drugs and diagnostics; use of ARVs as a method of prevention; reduction in the non-drug-related costs of providing treatment, such as hospitalizations; scaled up HIV testing and counseling services; and greater involvement by community members in the management of HIV treatment programs (Sharma, 7/13).

UNAIDS “estimates there were 33.4 million people living with HIV worldwide at the end of 2008. In the same year there were nearly 2.7 million new HIV infections and 2 million AIDS-related deaths,” according to an agency press release. Roughly one-third of the 15 million people in need of antiretrovirals have access to them, the release adds.

“For countries to reach their universal access targets and commitments, we must reshape the AIDS response,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said. “Through innovation we can bring down costs so investments can reach more people,” he added (7/13). According to Bernama, Sidibe also said, “Not only could Treatment 2.0 save lives, it has the potential to give us a significant prevention dividend” (7/14).

“UNAIDS officials conceded that implementing Treatment 2.0 would not be cheap: Treating 15 million people worldwide would cost an estimated $26-billion each year, even if the costs of testing are reduced. Currently, about $16-billion is being spent on HIV-AIDS drug programs,” the Globe and Mail reports.

“We’re $10-billion short a year,” Paul De Lay, deputy executive director of UNAIDS, said, noting the challenge of requesting additional funds for HIV/AIDS treatment during the economic downturn (Picard, 7/13).

The Los Angeles Times reports that “UNAIDS is urging individual countries in Africa and elsewhere to contribute 0.5% to 3% of their government revenue to national HIV programs, Dr. Paul De Lay … said at the news conference [announcing the release of the report]. Even so, he added, ‘the majority of the most affected countries will continue to rely primarily on international assistance.'” The article includes comments from Bernhard Schwartlander, UNAIDS’ director for evidence strategy and result, who also spoke at the news conference about the cost-effectiveness of treating patients with HIV early (Maugh, 7/14).

“With the rising treatment bill, countries in economic crisis and increasing prevention needs, the world is demanding change in the AIDS response. And we here at UNAIDS, with our partners, are working to reshape the AIDS response,” De Lay said, according to VOA News (DeCapua, 7/13).

AIDS Ranks High As Global Health Care Issue, Online Poll Says

As part of the Outlook report, UNAIDS published the results (.pdf) of an online public opinion poll on HIV that surveyed nearly 12,000 adults from 25 countries with Internet access.  The survey indicates that among respondents “nearly 30 years into the AIDS epidemic, region by region, countries continue to rank AIDS high on the list of the most important issues facing world” (7/13). 

While respondents overall ranked AIDS as one of the top health-care issues in the world, “[o]ptimism about the state of the global AIDS epidemic and progress in responding to it varied widely, often along geographical lines,” IRIN/PlusNews writes. “In sub-Saharan Africa, where most HIV infections occur, 31 percent of respondents chose the term ‘getting worse’ to describe the issue, while another 30 percent chose ‘tragic.’ In South and Southeast Asia participants were more likely to see the situation as ‘hopeful’ or ‘manageable.'”

IRIN/PlusNews continues, “A lack of funding and resources were also seen as major obstacles, but nearly six in 10 felt governments had a role to play in providing treatment for their HIV-positive citizens. The perception that people living with HIV should receive subsidized treatment was strongest in the Caribbean and Asia, but less than half the participants in the USA agreed” (7/14).

A Reuters factbox provides a breakdown of HIV/AIDS figures from around the world (Cutler, 7/13).