“Extraordinary Progress” In Battle Against AIDS

After publicly revealing he had contracted AIDS, Arthur Ashe used his publicity and the attention on him to raise awareness about AIDS and its victims, founding the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS and speaking before the U.N. General Assembly on World AIDS day to implore nations to increase funding for AIDS research and address AIDS as a world issue.

Today, he would be encouraged by the global community’s sustained efforts to curb the AIDS epidemic, which include: increased accessibility of drugs to more people, wide distribution of condoms and clean needles, and education about HIV. A recent report of “extraordinary progress” by the United Nations AIDS agency (UNAIDS) proves that hard work pays off: the rate of new infections has dwindled by more than a third and nearly 8 million lives have been saved since 2000.

In addition to this optimistic news, two big studies detailed that earlier treatment for AIDS not only keeps people healthy, but also reduces the likelihood of patients infecting others. The first study showed that people who started taking AIDS drugs soon after their diagnosis were healthier and had fewer side effects than those who waited. Additionally, beginning antiretroviral therapy early prevents both serious AIDS-related diseases and the onset of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other non-AIDS-related diseases in HIV-infected people.

These findings along with the introduction of a pill created by Gilead Sciences known as Truvada provide a positive outlook for the future and the possibility of eradicating the disease. Truvada is composed of 300 milligrams tenofovir disoproxil fumarate and 200 milligrams emtricitabine (TDF/FTC), a combination approved by FDA to help prevent HIV. Since Truvada cannot treat HIV-1 infection on its own, it has to be used with other anti-HIV medicines. Yet, with the help of safer sex practices, Truvada can help decrease the chance of HIV-1 infection. Those at high risk of contracting the disease through sex can also benefit from Truvada because it helps block the action of a protein that HIV-1 needs to proliferate. 

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