Reuters: As access to drugs improves, AIDS deaths drop worldwide

Reuters notes that the United Nations AIDS program has released a report linking  improved access to antiretroviral drugs as a major factor in the decreased incidence of deaths from HIV and AIDS.The report was released just ahead of the International AIDS Society’s 2012 conference in Washington, DC. According to the Reuters article, UN and public health officials have been pushing for pharmaceutical companies to improve access to HIV treatments, especially those that combine the array of drugs into one pill. Cost reduction is central to this push. UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibe tells Reuters that lowering the price of these antiretroviral drugs is essential to reduce the AIDS mortality rate.

In addition to antiretroviral drugs, researchers are working to develop antibodies that fight HIV. If successful, these could be developed into a vaccine that combats the virus rather than suppressing its replication. For now, however, the focus has turned to prevention campaigns and accessibility of medicines. As UNAIDS deputy executive director Paul De Lay explained to Reuters, “Prevention must be sustained, just the way we talk about sustaining treatment. Until we have a vaccine this is still going to have to be part of all countries’ health programs.”

2006 International AIDS Conference

According to the UNAIDS report, AIDS-related deaths fell from 2.3 million in 2005 to 1.7 million in 2011. It is estimated that there was a 31% decrease in deaths from AIDS-related causes in sub-Saharan Africa, which has a 62% coverage rate of access to HIV treatment. Increased attention towards the cause has greatly aided  efforts to expand treatment and accessibility to health care, with funding totaling $16.8 billion last year.

The UN hopes to extend access to these medicines to a targeted 15 million people in lower-income countries by 2015, which would cost an estimated $5 billion.

Read the full article here.

Photos: By Gary van der Merwe [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By User:PFHLai (photograph taken by User:PFHLai) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons