New report urges more AIDS prevention along with treatment

Prevention programs and research must be strengthened and expanded alongside of antiretroviral treatment (ART) initiatives, says HIV Prevention in the Era of Expanded Treatment Access, a report from the Global HIV Prevention Working Group that was released in early June. The Working Group is a panel of nearly 50 leading public health experts, clinicians, biomedical and behavioral researchers, and people affected by HIV/AIDS that is organized by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

This is the third report issued by the group and its focus reflects the increased attention to and funding for ART programs around the world. The report celebrates these programs as a welcome and long-overdue response to the AIDS pandemic and says that “the world has a unique opportunity, as ART programs are launched and expanded, to simultaneously bolster prevention efforts.” This is because in many regions ART programs decrease HIV-related stigma and increase people’s willingness to learn their HIV status at voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) centers, a crucial entry point for both prevention and treatment programs.

The new ART programs may also create a new climate for AIDS prevention. The report notes that in some settings in the industrialized world, ART programs can alter people’s perception of the risk associated with HIV and can lead to increased risk behavior. There is therefore an urgent need for innovative, integrated programs that provide both prevention and treatment and enable better access to both types of services. The report estimates that globally fewer than one in five people at high risk of infection have access to proven prevention interventions, including HIV counseling and testing, male and female condoms, treatment for sexually transmitted infections, harm reduction programs for injecting drug users, and mother to child transmission prevention programs.

The report also calls for funding for AIDS vaccine and microbicide research to double by 2007.

To read a copy of the full report: www.kff.org/hivaids/hivghpwgpackage.cfm