Is Ending HIV By 2030 Possible?
Since the initial widespread discovery of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the 1980s, HIV has been a worldwide threat to health. Over 40 million deaths worldwide have made HIV a serious epidemic. On the bright side, the world has united to fight this threat, pooling resources to eliminate the HIV epidemic (EHE) by 2030. Countries like the United States have pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into states like Texas to ramp up support, medication, and resources. Groups like teens, minorities, and men who have sex with men (MSM) are especially at risk. However, everyone can work together to make EHE a success.
How to end an epidemic
To successfully put an end to the HIV epidemic, the number of new infections needs to drop by 90% or more. Several levers must be pulled at once to achieve success. Studies show that 90% of HIV+ people must be aware of HIV status and able to access antiviral medications. At least 90% of HIV+ people must also have a suppressed or undetectable viral load. Additionally, available resources must remain to prevent future outbreaks. There must also be a reduced stigma around HIV so more people are willing to use the available resources to prevent and treat infections. EHE resources will focus on providing education, free or subsidized medication, and clinic support. However, these initiatives can only go as far as the people using, sharing, and advocating for these resources.
It starts with you
For EHE to work, everyone must play an active part in stopping the spread of HIV. Education must be at the center of the initiative, with awareness built from an early age. Despite all the tools and available resources, speaking about sex, drug use, and HIV is still taboo in many cultures. This is reflected in the disproportionate use of HIV treatment and resources by minorities. Recently, schools and other stakeholders have improved in providing data, information, and resources to these groups. This information will help everyone get regular tests, practice safe sex, and reduce drug use via needles. Making education a priority can provide the fuel to make 2030 a reality.
Responsibility through communication
A person’s HIV status is a private and personal matter. However, when having sex with a partner, communication is vital. Disclosing HIV status in intimate situations can ensure all parties stay safe. With the right information, the couple can get periodic testing and use the proper treatment. Communicating HIV status to a trusted partner also prevents risky behaviors that increase the chances of infection. This includes sex with multiple partners, frequent unprotected sex, or using needles to inject drugs.
Ending the epidemic would mean medication and resources are readily available to at-risk people. For example, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a common drug anyone at risk can use to prevent HIV infection. The medicine helps the body pre-load antibodies that are produced when a person contracts HIV. With enough antibodies in the body, the virus cannot replicate. Using PrEP on-demand, at least 24 hours before sex or using drugs, can also decrease the chances of infection significantly. EHE aims to make PrEP more commonplace.
Spread the word, not the virus
In today’s world, attention carries significant value. Social media, in particular, is a perfect avenue for teens, minorities, and other groups to become HIV advocates. By sharing information, contributing to organizations, or making charitable donations, the word about HIV prevention spreads. An HIV advocate can indirectly save hundreds of lives by sharing information and being passionate about serving others.
Do your part
Ending the HIV epidemic is a huge undertaking. Even if this goal is achieved by 2030, the virus may remain endemic in some areas, requiring continuous support. EHE can only be achieved through everyone taking the epidemic seriously. With the proper knowledge, individuals and couples can stay safe and get tested. Once there is more personal responsibility, a future without HIV is possible.