Australia’s top scientists have declared that AIDS is no longer a public health issue in the country as it has joined the ranks of the few nations which have successfully beaten the deadly epidemic, reported PTI. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) cases in Australia have dropped since anti-retroviral medication came in, in the mid-1990s. This medication stops the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) from progressing to AIDS – where the immune system is so badly damaged it cannot fight off infection. At its peak in the early 1990s, about 1,000 Australians died from AIDS each year, said researchers.
According to Professor Andrew Grulich, head of the HIV Epidemiology and Prevention Programme at the Kirby Institute, the number is now so low that it is not recorded. “These days we don’t even monitor it, it’s a transitory thing for most people; people have AIDS, then they go on treatment and they don’t have AIDS anymore,” Grulich said. “The only cases we see of AIDS these days are people undiagnosed with HIV and so they can’t be treated,” he said.
Professor Sharon Lewin, director of the Peter Doherty Institute, said, anti-retroviral medications had been game changers, allowing people with HIV to live a long and healthy life. “I’ve actually seen a dramatic transformation of HIV from a universal death sentence to now a chronic, manageable disease,” Sharon said.
Despite the progress, researchers said that the end of AIDS did not mean the conquering HIV, ABC News reported. “One of the problems we still have in Australia is people not getting tested, not knowing they’re infected with HIV, and turning up for their first test when they already have AIDS, or already have significant immune damage,” Sharon added.
According to a report published in The Times of India, researchers and scientists at the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisation (AFAO) said that with the technology and support geared in the right direction, the new HIV infections can be completely eliminated by 2020.
Nearly 34 million people have died of HIV since the beginning of the epidemic. According to a 2013 UNAIDS – the United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS – report, India has the third-highest number of people living with HIV in the world, with 2.1 million Indians accounting for about four out of 10 people infected with the deadly virus in the Asia-Pacific region. Asia and the Pacific have the largest number of people living with HIV after sub-Saharan Africa.