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AIDS Past and Present 

AIDS AWARENESS

From Charlie Sheen’s HIV diagnosis to the news coverage of Truvada (the HIV prevention pill), the media has been buzzing about HIV and AIDS. Following World AIDS Day on December 1, HealthGrove wanted to examine what this disease looks like in the world today.

By the turn of the millennium, an HIV or AIDS diagnosis was no longer a death sentence in most developed countries. With new scientific advancements, accessibility of antiretroviral therapy (ART) drugs, and the mortality of HIV decreasing, the burden of HIV and AIDS on the U.S. is gradually being lifted.

From 2008 to 2013, the number of deaths in the United States due to HIV infection decreased from 3.4 to 2.2 per 100,000 people. Globally, however, HIV/AIDS is still a pandemic that kills millions every year.

Many infected individuals worldwide take antiretroviral therapy drugs. The visualization below, which uses data reported to the World Health Organization, clearly depicts the disparity in access and use of these drugs among various countries. According to the UN’s Human Development Report and the World Health Organization, underdeveloped countries have considerably lower percentages of people on these drugs.

For example, 5 percent of HIV infected people in South Sudan have antiretroviral coverage, while in Botswana, a more developed country, 70 percent do. The numbers in South America are a bit more promising, but inequalities still exist. In Bolivia, 20 percent have access to ART, while in Chile and Argentina, 86 percent and 80 percent have access, respectively.

Much research is still being done to improve existing therapies, as well as to find a cure. In recent years, U.S. budgetary allocation to HIV and AIDS research remained relatively steady around $3 billion annually. There was a small spike in funding in 2012, at nearly $3.2 billion.

Recent scientific advancements seem to have encouraged the government and scientific community — the National Institutes of Health predict that this funding will see another increase in 2016 to $3.1 billion.

Despite the waning burden of HIV and AIDS on the U.S. population, it’s good to know that funding has not declined correspondingly. The still widespread incidence of the disease and burden on the global community merits worldwide collaboration. In the words of AIDS researcher Kelly L. Jordan-Sciutto: “Pharmaceutical companies have done an amazing job developing drugs to make HIV patients live longer, but we're not done.”

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