There is a new optimistic message from a growing number of clinicians, politicians and PLHIV: “HIV is different now”.
The scientific understanding of HIV transmission and antiretroviral treatment has evolved
considerably over the past few years: there is hope to further improve health outcomes for
PLHIV with early initiation of treatment.
A lot of excitement has also been generated by the discovery that an undetectable viral load as a result of early treatment (with a CD4 count between 350 and 550) has the potential to reduce the risk of passing on HIV to a regular sexual partner by 96%.
Much like the virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission as a result of treatment in resource-rich settings, the community is now excited by another biomedical prevention opportunity: providing early and accessible treatment can make a significant contribution to the virtual elimination of sexual HIV transmission. This is one part of what has become known as “Treatment as Prevention (TasP)”.
Australia has committed to the ambitious 2011 UN Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS targets that include a 50% reduction in the sexual transmission of HIV by 2015. This commitment reflects the mounting evidence that starting treatment early is beneficial for the individual, and will also help to prevent HIV transmission if providing accessible treatment is partnered with efforts to increase HIV testing.