A few decades ago, the discourse surrounding HIV/AIDS was a very different one from today. It was a disease to be feared. It was a disease that carried discriminatory propaganda, until people began to realise that it could affect virtually anyone in any sphere of life. And it was deadly because the treatments that are readily available to many people today were years away from being developed.
Now, we live in a different world. We have several advanced treatments and medication for people living with HIV/AIDS, and we stand on the brink of a cure, a landmark achievement for an illness that has claimed millions of lives. And, just as importantly, we have begun the challenge of addressing the stigma that surrounds the disease by providing support to the communities that it continues to affect.
However, these milestones should not be accepted complacently. They are the positive outcome of change and progress, but there remain several regions around the world where AIDS is still a pandemic, still stigmatised, where diagnosis is inefficient, and access to treatment itself is severely limited. There is still a long way to go.
The possibility of hope
What we can do, though, is look at how our advancements in AIDS treatments can be made accessible to those who need them. There are a range of solutions for people with AIDS, and these solutions can be adapted to meet that person’s specific medical condition:
- Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs): disable proteins needed by HIV.
- Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs): provide a decoy for HIV building blocks.
- Protease inhibitors (PIs): disable protease, another essential for HIV to continue producing itself.
- Entry or fusion inhibitors: prevent entry of HIV in CD4 cells.
- Integrase inhibitors: disable integrase, which is also required for entry into CD4 cells.
- Fixed dose combinations.
As these drugs become more feasible to produce and distribute, they are becoming increasingly accessible as well as improved from their earlier development, and this is essential for regions where treatment is difficult to reach. Charities such as those led by philanthropist Jennifer Douglas Abubakar rely on the availability of these treatments in order to reach out to the people who depend on the organisation, which is why Abubakar is such a passionate advocate of continued medical research. Search for Jennifer Douglas Abubakar to find out more about her charity, the Gede Foundation, which was founded in 2002, has helped many people with HIV/AIDS recover and enjoy a high quality of life, and is one example of many that have benefited by the advancement of HIV/AIDS research and its developments.
As we stand on the tip of what could be the cure to one of the world’s most devastating illnesses, it is vital to keep pushing with the momentum that is driving HIV/AIDS research. It is also important to continue to encourage education and prevention as well as open forums where people can freely discuss living with the disease without feeling discriminated against. Now, finally, we have hope and the chance to change lives for the better.