What is HIV/AIDS?

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) if left untreated. HIV attacks and destroys the T-cells of a person's immune system so that they are unable to fight off bacteria and infection. The disease can be spread through sex, blood transfusions, needles, and breast-feeding. It is concentrated among low and middle-income countries. 

​Medical Advances in HIV/AIDS

In the past year, it has been seen by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that there is increased access to HIV testing in America. Citizens aged 15 to 65 have been urged to get annually tested for HIV, which will now be covered under Obamacare. The CDC also launched a pilot program that allows low-income areas to get tested at their local pharmacy. However, they estimate that 20% of the 1.1 million Americans are still unaware that they are infected, so it is imperative that testing become more accessible and affordable. 

 

​Help For Mothers & Children in Africa

In July 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) testified that HIV could be eliminated completely with the potential of the current "arsenal of drugs" that have been developed to combat the virus. The FDA later approved Stribild, an oral pill that can treat HIV-positive victims. This makes it easier to treat individuals in America as well as foreign countries. However, the advances made in antiretroviral  therapy (ART) - which has significantly reduced HIV-related deaths since 1996 - do little to help people in poverty since the therapy is still so expensive.  ​According to WHO, at the end of 2011, over 8 million people in third world countries were receiving ART, but 7 million who qualified still had no access to the treatment. 

 

In 2011, most of the children that lived in sub-Saharan Africa were infected by their HIV-positive mothers during pregnancy or breastfeeding. In March 2013, the WHO published an analysis of an HIV treatment that was implemented by the Ministry of Health in Malawi. The policy is called Option B+ and provides life-long ART for HIV-positive pregnant women so that the disease does not spread to the infant. The WHO analyzed the cost-effectiveness of  Option B+ and concluded that the policy would "require more financial resources initially, [but] it would save societal resources in the long-term." As for what this means for the rest of the world, Option B+ may represent a way to simplify and integrate HIV-prevention and treatment services into maternal and child health programs. 

 

Around the world, 34 million people live with HIV/AIDS; among those, 3.34 million are children. It is still the world's leading infectious killer, resulting in the death of 1.7 million in 2011. In that same year, approximately 430,000 people who died from tuberculosis (TB) were also HIV-positive. Since HIV attacks the breaks down the immune system's defenses, people living with HIV are more susceptible to TB. Sub-Saharan Africa holds about 79% of the cases worldwide for people living with HIV and/or TB.