July 12, 2013
"No longer is it whether we can achieve an AIDS-free generation. Now, the question is: How long will it take and will it be sustained?" Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the NIH, writes in a Washington Post opinion piece. "Vaccines historically have played an important role in the control and even elimination of global health scourges such as smallpox, polio and measles," he notes, adding, "So two important questions regarding an AIDS-free generation are: Is an HIV vaccine needed to reach this goal, and if so, what role will it play?" He continues, "While the road to an AIDS-free generation will be long and arduous, recent progress in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment has been encouraging," noting, "Initiatives such as [PEPFAR] and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria are channeling antiretroviral treatment to millions of people in hard-hit countries." Fauci adds, "Mathematical models suggest that, by implementing existing HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention tools much more broadly worldwide, we can reach an AIDS-free generation."
"But without an effective HIV vaccine, reaching that goal will take much longer and will be more difficult, and along the way more people will become infected and more lives will be lost," Fauci continues. "So while it may be possible, and even likely, to achieve an AIDS-free generation without it, an effective HIV vaccine would get us to an AIDS-free generation faster and, more important, help sustain that accomplishment," he writes, adding, "To attain and sustain an AIDS-free generation, those who are already infected or at risk of infection must faithfully practice recommended treatment and/or prevention strategies." Fauci continues, "Contrast this to an HIV vaccine. For it to be effective, a person probably would need to receive a small number of recommended immunizations, possibly just one." He adds, "When we do succeed, an HIV vaccine will be the main driver to not only accelerate the decline of new HIV infections -- and to do so more efficiently and cost-effectively -- but also to maintain an AIDS-free generation once we get there" (7/11).