Falling Behind HIV: The Need for Prevention

By Diep, Kelly | Harvard International Review, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview

Falling Behind HIV: The Need for Prevention


Diep, Kelly, Harvard International Review


Since scientists isolated the first known case of AIDS in 1959, the highly resistant HIV has mutated, showing great resilience in the face of various treatments. In 2005 alone, 38.6 million cases of HIV infection were reported worldwide, up from 36.2 million in 2003. In addition, regions, such as the Asia-Pacific, that in the previous decade did not have an AIDS epidemic, have seen a dangerous growth of HIV cases. Though the prevalence of the disease has not yet reached the levels seen in Sub-Saharan Africa, this does not mean that the disease will not have catastrophic effects in the future, especially if national governments and international organizations continue to fail in their efforts to curb the dramatic increases in infection of the last decade.

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The governments of Asian countries have attempted to fight the disease before it reaches uncontrollable levels. However, HIV has continuously survived preemptive strikes against its invasion and does not show signs of disappearing any time soon. Despite vigorous efforts and campaigns to provide expanded treatment while concurrently reducing AIDS cases, HIV continues to spread as mankind's most formidable communicable disease. One of these failed attempts, the "3 by 5" campaign, while proposed with the best intentions, did not reduce the cases of HIV.

The "3 by 5" campaign was proposed in 2003 by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDs) to provide three million people in developing nations with anti-retroviral treatment as a small step toward the overall goal of providing universal treatment for HIV. While providing treatment for HIV is a vital component of addressing the AIDS epidemic, the disappointing results of the "3 by 5" initiative on HIV treatment and the overall growth in the number of cases of global HIV reflects a dire need for the Asia-Pacific region and its neighboring nations to not only utilize treatment methods, but to create preventive measures that would more effectively reduce the cases of AIDS.

A Grim Reality in 2003

In December 2003, The World Health Organization reported that 3 million people had died from HIV in that year alone and that another 40 million were living with AIDS. These numbers reflect a steady increase since 1999 of HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths. Demonstrating the ineffectivesness of current strategies, the situation in 2003 demanded a desperate reappraisal of solutions to the HIV epidemic.

The Asia-Pacific region alone gained one million cases of AIDS to claim a total of about 7.4 million cases of the disease, indicating an ominous acceleration of HIV infection in a region that had, until then, not encountered serious problems with the disease. The government of India estimated that the country's numbers had grown to about 4.58 million cases in the past decade, panti-retroviral treatmently due to increasing drug and sex trafficking in the region. China demonstares similar problems in its more rural provinces. According to the HIV/AIDS in Asia and Pacific Region 2003 Handbook, some provinces such as Yunnan, Xinjiang, Guangxi, and Sichuan have HIV prevalence rates that range from as much as 80 percent as a result of heavy drug injection use.

Most ominous about these rates of infection is the fact that they are occuring among the largest populations in the world, China and India. Such an increasing presence of HIV is an even more pressing issue to deal with when looking at the future of healthcare costs and fatalities from disease. China was not the only country that had a large concentration of AIDS cases in its more remote provinces; Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam experienced unprecedented rates of HIV infection. Many of these developing countries did not and still do not have the economic means to provide effective Anti-retroviral treatment, and this inevitably causes greater susceptibility to future infections.

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