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NLM Director’s Comments Transcript
HIV/AIDS Progress and Challenges: 07/08/2013

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D. senior staff National Library of Medicine for Donald Lindberg, M.D, the Director of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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Thirty years after the first reported cases, a review recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggests while a significant reduction in HIV/AIDS’ public health impact has occurred, some challenges need to be addressed to sustain progress. An accompanying editorial adds a constructive byproduct of HIV/AIDS’ expansion has been the disease’s transformative impact on the field of global health.

The review notes an estimated 34 million persons were living with an HIV infection around the world in 2011. In 2011, about 2.5 million persons were newly infected with HIV— and about 1.7 million persons died from the disease.

In contrast, in 2001 (a decade earlier), about 29.1 million persons were living with HIV, about 2.9 million were newly infected, and 2.3 million persons died. The review’s two authors find while there are commendably fewer HIV deaths and new infections, the accompanying, therapeutic rise in the number of persons living with HIV reflects an increased (but not universal) availability of antiretroviral medications to treat and manage the disease, increased public awareness, more condom use, and an unprecedented global effort to counter the disease’s impact.

The review’s two authors write (and we quote): ‘There is consensus that no single intervention can stop the spread of HIV and that combination prevention is the best approach. Effective biomedical interventions coupled with behavior and structural approaches may now successfully reduce the incidence of HIV infection to very low levels and ultimately control the epidemic’ (end of quote).

On the other hand, the review’s authors emphasize an effective HIV preventive vaccine is still unavailable and recent research suggests important HIV prevention information does not reach many at risk people. For example, a 2008 United Nations multi-national study found about 54 percent of persons who injected drugs did not receive HIV prevention information.

For current progress to persist, the review’s authors conclude international treatment and prevention efforts need to be sustained. Despite impressive advancements in HIV/AIDS’ diagnosis, treatment, and prevention, the authors find (and we quote): ‘these achievements are fragile because of the enormous challenge of sustaining political, programmatic, and technical commitment, along with national and international funding” (end of quote).

A thoughtful, accompanying editorial adds an underappreciated, therapeutic legacy of HIV/AIDS’ first 30 years may be the degree the disease’s clinical and public health impact transformed the concept — and public understanding of — global health. The editorial notes HIV/AIDS’ impact helped medical professionals and the public appreciate (and we quote): ‘the fact that no individual country can adequately address diseases in the face of the movement of people, trade, microbes, and risks’ (end of quote).

The editorial’s author explains HIV/AIDS also helped policy makers and the public better understand (and we quote): ‘the burden of disease to identify key health disparities and develop strategies for their reduction’ (end of quote).

The author concludes (and we quote): “when the history of the HIV epidemic is eventually written, it will be important to recognize that without this epidemic there would be no global health movement as we know it today’ (end of quote).

A brief explanation of how HIV/AIDS was identified in 1983 can be found in the ‘MedlinePlus Magazine’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s HIV/AIDS health topic page. MedlinePlus.gov’s HIV/AIDS health topic page also provides updated, comprehensive, evidence-based information about HIV/AIDS’ diagnosis/symptoms, treatment, prevention/screening, and management.

A recommended website that addresses AIDS myths and misconceptions (from the New Mexico AIDS Education and Training Center) is available in the ‘related issues’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s HIV/AIDS health topic page.

MedlinePlus.gov’s HIV/AIDS health topic page additionally contains links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the ‘journal articles’ section. Links to related clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the ‘clinical trials’ section. From the HIV/AIDS health topic page, you can sign up to receive email updates with links to new information as it becomes available on MedlinePlus.

To find MedlinePlus.gov’s HIV/AIDS health topic page, just type ‘HIV’ or ‘AIDS’ in the search box at the top of MedlinePlus.gov’s home page. Then, click on ‘HIV/AIDS (National Library of Medicine).’ MedlinePlus.gov also has a health topic page devoted to international health.

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