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New optimism about curbing spread of AIDS

BY LAURAN NEERGAARD Published: July 8, 2012
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WASHINGTON — An AIDS-free generation: It seems an audacious goal, considering how the HIV epidemic still is raging around the world.

Yet more than 20,000 international HIV researchers and activists will gather in the nation’s capital later this month with a sense of optimism not seen in many years — hope that it finally may be possible to dramatically stem the spread of the AIDS virus.

“We want to make sure...

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HIV-AIDS today

Prevention, treatment improving

Prospects for a vaccine are so far elusive and health disparities are widening, so why the optimism as expressed by the Obama administration’s goal of getting to an AIDS-free generation?

Consider the potential strategies, to add to tried-and-true steps such as condom use and treating HIV-infected pregnant women to protect their unborn babies:

•Studies found treatment-as-prevention could lower an HIV patient’s chance of spreading the virus to an uninfected sexual partner by a stunning 96 percent. In the U.S., new guidelines recommend starting treatment early rather than waiting until the immune system has weakened. Abroad, the United Nations hopes to more than double the number of patients being treated in poor countries to 15 million by 2015.

•Other studies show a longtime AIDS medication named Truvada can prevent infection, too, if taken daily by healthy people who are at risk from their infected sexual partners. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to decide by fall whether to formally approve sale of Truvada as an HIV preventive.

•A study from South Africa found a vaginal gel containing anti-AIDS medication helped protect women when their infected partners wouldn’t use a condom, generating more interest in developing women-controlled protection.

•Globally, experts also stress male circumcision, to lower men’s risk of heterosexually acquired HIV.

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