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In this issue

Gus Cairns
Published: 03 December 2009

We hope, as you read this, that you’re about to have a very happy festive season. This is a time traditionally to renew ties with friends and family and, as we find out in this issue, a supportive circle of close friends can have an astonishingly direct effect on your physical health, not to mention your happiness. September’s article on positive psychology (Walking back to happiness, issue 189) was well received, and we offer The best of friends as a seasonal companion.

There’s been some good news to accompany World AIDS Day this year. The number of people dying of AIDS in the world has really started to tumble, at a rate of about 10% a year, and the number living with the virus has probably passed its peak too. It’s of historic significance that the World Health Organization and UNAIDS are able to celebrate this in their annual World AIDS Day report.

No one measure has delivered this. Successful prevention and education initiatives, viral ‘burnout’ killing off the most vulnerable – and most infectious – people, and increasing availability of antiretroviral drugs have all contributed to reducing the pool of infection and deaths.

This good news, however, is tempered by a lot of ‘buts’:

HIV is not on the decrease in the UK. There are now 83,000 people with HIV here. That’s the equivalent of the population of Watford. It works out as one positive person on every A40 Airbus flight, and, in the higher-prevalence area of London, four on every peak-hour tube train. And because one person with HIV dies for every 14 newly diagnosed, these figures will increase for some time to come.

As Médecins sans Frontières highlights in a recent report, the progress we have achieved could be reversed if the money for HIV programmes starts to dry up. Global recession, complacency, and resentment that HIV seems to get the lion’s share of global health funding could all conspire to throw into reverse the last decade’s gains.    

As we find out in Why we won’t die of AIDS, while AIDS in its classic form may become a rarity amongst everyone but those diagnosed late, the positive population, especially as they age, may continue to have complex medical needs. We may be more prone to conditions ranging from heart attacks and cancer to dementia and, as we find out in A chance to dream, sleep disorders.

That implies we may have a fight on our hands in the developed world as well as in the global South to ensure that people with HIV get the healthcare resources they need.

While we may have corralled the ‘untamed beast’ that is HIV, we haven’t found a way to kill or permanently tame it, as Keith Alcorn reminds us in The cure. Until we can come up with better ways to prevent HIV infection and render infections harmless, we will continue to be reliant on an expensive and lifelong programme of drugs.

A cure for HIV: that really would be a Christmas present worth celebrating.

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.
Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap
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This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.