FINAL VICTORY AGAINST HIV

 

Goodnews, the war against HIV/AIDS is being won. We congratulate researchers and donors who have made the fight against HIV successful, saving millions of lives.

The advent of HIV/AIDS was equal to a death sentence for those who contracted the virus. It is accepted by many that the only thing that is permanent in our world is change. For some time, the risk of infection of HIV from a patient who is being treated has been known to equal almost zero. Nevertheless, the question has been and is still sensitive thus the pandemic of HIV.

The goodnews is that a new study presented in the Journal Lancet, has confirmed this beyond doubt. In this study, researchers followed 972 male homosexual couples where one was infected with HIV but not the partner. The infected men were under medication with anti-retroviral therapy. During the period, the couples who had unprotected sex with each other were followed for more than eight years. The participants were recruited from several countries in Europe from various health care institutions, including Venhälsan Södersjukhuset in Stockholm.

The risk of being infected by HIV if one's sexual partner is under treatment is equal to zero. Although the couples had unprotected sex for more than eight years, not one of their partners was infected. This study gives the final important proof that the risk of being infected with HIV from gay men under treatment is equal to zero.

All over the world, HIV has been causing pandemic. The result of this study is a powerful message that can help to stop this pandemic by preventing infection and at the same time counteracting the stigma and discrimination that many people living with HIV and their families encounter across the globe.

Thanks to medication, the life expectancy of an HIV-infected person who is under treatment today is estimated to be as long as for a healthy person without HIV.

Unfortunately, millions of people who are living with HIV in resource poor countries such as Nigeria have no access to antiretroviral threapy. Nigeria has the second largest HIV epidemic in the world and one of the highest rates of new infection in sub-Saharan Africa.

Men who have sex with men are the only group in Nigeria where HIV prevalence is still rising. In 2017, prevalence in this group stood at 23%, significantly more than the next highest prevalence group - sex workers - at 14.4% (UNAIDS, 2017). Of all new HIV infections in the country, 10% occur among men who have sex with men (NACA, 2014).

Many people living with HIV in Nigeria are unaware of their status.

Nigeria continues to fall short of providing the recommended number of HIV testing and counselling sites. Report show that 3.1 million people are living with HIV in Nigeria. There were 210,000 new HIV infections in Nigeria in 2017. About 34% of adults infected with HIV are under antiretroviral treatment while about 26% of children infected are under antiretroviral treatment (UNAIDS, 2018).

Low levels of access to antiretroviral treatment remains an issue for people living with HIV, meaning that there are still many AIDS-related deaths in Nigeria. Approximately 150,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses in Nigeria in 2017 (UNAIDS, 2017).Only 33% of those with a positive diagnosis in Nigeria are accessing antiretroviral treatment (ART) (UNAIDS, AIDSinfo 2018).

It is a moral and ethical imperative for pharmaceutical companies who produce these drugs to make them affordable and accessible to all those who need them. The fight for a HIV-free generation will be unrealizable if some people or groups are left behind in the fight. The duty to serve lives far outweighs that of making profits.

Dr Beaty Ihens

SAID Nigeria

 

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