Experts worry that a decrease in funding in the fight against aids

Les experts s’inquiètent d’une baisse du financement dans la lutte contre le sida

Photo: Claudio Reyes Agence France-Presse
Aids there is still no cure and no vaccine. On the photo: a man made a HIV test.

Advances in the research against aids are considerable, but the eradication of the epidemic is still far from being reached, warned experts from around the world, considering that billions of dollars additional will be needed to achieve such a goal.

Meeting in Amsterdam, the netherlands, to attend the international aids Conference, which runs from Monday to Friday, researchers and actors in the field have sounded the alarm Sunday .

They fear a decrease in funding allocated to the international research and prevention, including the United States, the first contributor history of the fight against aids. Since his election in 2016, the president, Donald Trump has plans to slash the budgets allocated to Plan presidential emergency aids relief (PEPFAR), launched in 2003 by George W. Bush.

An attitude strongly criticized by Jean-Pierre Routy, a researcher in HIV and hematologist at the McGill university health Centre (MUHC). “We have seen with other diseases, such as malaria or tuberculosis (tb): when the funds dwindle, the epidemic sets out again of more beautiful. Treatments are increasingly effective and well tolerated, it should not take the risk of a stop for delivering drugs in the most affected countries, we have more patients, ” says Dr. Routy, who is required to give a conference in Amsterdam on Wednesday.

By stigmatizing people who have problems with drugs by injection, it removes them from the system of health and deprives them of a screening and treatment

— Ken Monteith

At the present time, there would already have a shortfall : for that the disease no longer represents a threat to public health worldwide by 2030 — the target set by UNAIDS, the instance of fight against aids of the UN, nearly 7 billion extra per year will be needed.

“I doubt we can reach the goal if we stick to the scientific work, and especially if the funds are cut,” says Dr. Routy. At the same time, 15 years ago, we would never have thought that more than half [of the people infected in the world] would be today under treatment to fight the disease. “

Far from the goal

If, globally, the disease has declined in recent years, it is always present. Nearly 37 million people still live with HIV and about two million new infections are acquired each year.

The research has, however, helped to reduce the number of deaths, which has fallen to below one million in 2016 (990 000) and also in 2017 (940 000), for the first time since the beginning of the century. But the virus remains incurable and no vaccine, even after more than three decades of research.

In fifty countries, the infections are even higher, due to lack of prevention or because of punitive laws against most at risk populations, such as homosexuals or drug addicts.

“By stigmatizing people who have problems with drugs by injection, it removes them from the system of health and deprives them of a screening, and treatment. During this time, they contaminate more and more people without knowing it, and may die, ” says the executive director of the Coalition des organismes communautaires québécois de lutte contre le sida (COCQ-SIDA), Ken Monteith. He noted that the establishment of services to supervised injection in Quebec has helped to reduce cases of HIV from this type of population.

More prevention ?

Give priority to HIV treatment rather than its prevention would have been ” a strategic mistake “, writes the president of the international aids Society (IAS), Linda-Gail Bekker, questioned by the AFP last week. “There is no epidemic of which we were able to get out of treatment,” she said, citing the Ebola virus, or tuberculosis. She rather believes in the benefits of prevention : condoms, new needles for addicts and preventive medicine.

In favour of more prevention, Jean-Pierre Routy, nevertheless, remains skeptical, noting that it barely had a real impact on at-risk populations, which, however, should absolutely change their behavior. “Wear condoms, get tested often : it fatigue people who, at a given moment, have a moment of weakness and make love without protection, says the researcher. It is that aids is less scared now that we know that we can live with the disease by taking medication. “

In his view, research must continue in order to find a vaccine, ” the most realistic way to remove the disease in the long term “.

With Agence France-Presse

Canada present at the aids Conference

The federal minister of Health, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, who will represent Canada at the 22nd international Conference on aids, intends to showcase the expertise and innovation of the country in this field. The annual meeting is the opportunity for scientists to discuss the impact of recent advances, or setbacks, in the pursuit of better HIV treatments. Before the meeting, the minister Taylor has released an update of the figures on the state of the disease in the country, considering that Canada had made progress in the past 30 years in order to achieve the treatment targets of the joint united Nations Programme on HIV/aids (UNAIDS). By 2030, 90 % of people living with HIV should know their hiv status, 90 % of all people diagnosed should receive antiretroviral treatment and 90% of the people receiving treatment should have a viral load suppressed. In Canada, 63 000 people living with HIV : 86 % of them have received a diagnosis, 81 % of those diagnosed have received treatment and 91 % of people on treatment have a viral load suppressed.