The Economist Examines Setbacks, Progress in Fight Against HIV/AIDSThe Economist on Thursday examined promising new HIV/AIDS developments discussed at this week's XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City and reviewed setbacks in the fight against the disease since the XVI International AIDS Conference in 2006.
According to The Economist, some "disappointment[s]" in HIV/AIDS research since the 2006 conference have come from unsuccessful trials of potential HIV prevention strategies, including the use of microbicides, the suppression of genital herpes and the use of diaphragms. Those setbacks, as well as the failure of a promising Merck HIV vaccine last year, have led HIV/AIDS researchers to refocus on "basic science," according to The Economist.
In one example of the new strategy, research discussed at this week's conference indicates that treating patients with antiretrovirals to reduce their viral loads could be a promising new prevention method, The Economist reports. This strategy could lead in three directions: as pre-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV transmission; as microbicides to prevent the virus from breeding before it enters the body; and to make HIV-positive individuals less infectious. According to The Economist, Julio Montaner, the incoming president of the International AIDS Society, hopes the use of antiretrovirals to prevent HIV transmission will spur governments to "redouble" their efforts to provide the drugs.
This week's conference also highlighted promising new research that male circumcision could help reduce a man's risk of HIV, as well as the importance of behavior change and targeted outreach in curbing the spread of the disease, The Economist reports. Helene Gayle, co-chair of the Global HIV Prevention Working Group, said that no national HIV epidemic has been controlled without behavior change strategies. According to The Economist, given the broad range of prevention strategies, the "one lesson" that has come out of the conference is that "combination prevention ... is the only sensible way forward" (The Economist, 8/7).
Kaisernetwork.org is the official webcaster of the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City. Click here to sign up for your Daily Update e-mail during the conference. This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.