Among gay and bisexual men in America during the 1980’s, HIV emerged as a major health crisis. But it didn’t stop there, in Australia at around the same time, HIV began spreading as well. Health officials spent millions over the past three decades to curb the transmission of the virus. Including, TV ads, health campaigns, public ads, and more. But now in 2018, New South Wales’ Health officials have made an auspicious claim.
End HIV Transmission—How?
Dr. Kerry Chant, the state’s chief medical health officer, says that they are on track to eliminating HIV transmission completely by 2020. The trick today is antiretroviral drug therapy (ART). This drug is a cocktail of medicines prescribed after one has already contracted HIV. To that end, there a number of cocktails are available, each with its own degree of functionality and side effects. Still simply put, the drug combats HIV by reducing its ability to reproduce itself in the human body. ART can reduce the viral count to such a low point that it cannot be detected in blood tests. In this condition, it is unlikely for someone to transmit the virus.
Though where New South Wales has proven its innovation is in introducing free pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in 2016. PrEP is the same cocktail drug as ART. However, it is usually prescribed to an uninfected person—someone who thinks they may have been exposed to the virus. In this case, it blocks the virus from taking root, thereby preventing the need for ART. In the States, the FDA has already approved the drug, but due to its high cost, many of those who are at-risk do not seek out a prescription for it.
What We Need To Do
Moreover, in Australia, over 6,700 people took part in the pilot program. The program was such a success that other states and territories are planning to adopt it. Although PrEP can help in the fight against HIV, health officials also say that routine testing and using a condom every time one has sex are also important factors. To this end, researchers posit that in order to further progress in the battle, those who are infected need to be motivated to continue to seek care. ART, mentioned earlier, has a number of variations because one specific cocktail may not suit a person. Therefore, they have the choice between the side effects and the degree of functionality.
As for health officials, however, they also play a part here. Researchers say that these officials have to make sure to promote public health messages in a way tailored to specific communities, particularly gay and bisexual men. State health officials believe that this is feasible.
Admittedly, it is hard to realize that we are approaching what seems to be the beginning of the end for HIV. Still, we must realize that anyone can be at-risk for HIV. If you are sexually active, be cognizant, protect yourself, and talk about STDs and HIV with a partner before having sex with them. Lastly, see a doctor or for an STD screening.