HIV/AIDS: An introduction to the current challenges and opportunities in the treatment of HIV.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that is responsible for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). This is caused when the virus attacks the immune system, particularly CD4 T lymphocytes. The destruction conferred to these cells by HIV can weaken a person’s immunity against many different infections.
HIV continues to be a major global public health issue having claimed the lives of 36.3 million people so far, according to World Health Organization (WHO).
Currently, there is no cure for HIV infection. However, thanks to the increasing access of patients to effective HIV prevention, treatment and care, HIV has become a manageable chronic health condition and therefore, people who have access to medication can live long, healthy lives. According to WHO, at the end of 2020, there were an estimated 37.7 million people living with HIV globally, two thirds of whom were in the WHO African Region.
Challenges, trends and opportunities
Sustained access to combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) has been deemed crucial in reducing mortality rates of people with HIV infection. The early initiation of cART and subsequent suppression of the plasma viral load can contribute towards reduced mortality and HIV transmission rates and a better quality of life.
Towards that direction, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has proposed the 90-90-90 and 95-95-95 targets which state that, by 2020 and 2030, respectively, at least 90% and 95% of all people with HIV should be diagnosed, at least 90% and 95% of those diagnosed should be treated with cART, and at least 90% and 95% of those treated with cART should be virologically suppressed. The progress made so far has been encouraging. However, a considerable number of countries have not reached the 90-90-90 targets.
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