In their constant work to reduce the number of HIV infections as well as AIDS-related deaths, researchers face significant challenges, Dr. Carlos del Rio, told CNN’s Michael Holmes on Wednesday. He is usually the director for clinical sciences as well as international research for the Center for AIDS Research at Emory University as well as the executive associate dean for Emory School of Medicine at Grady Health System.
Del Rio said researchers are challenged with inadequate health care systems, in addition to a lack of a preventative vaccine or a cure for the disease.
“We need to strengthen healthcare systems, so people with HIV continue receiving medication in an appropriate way,” del Rio said.
Of the nearly 38 million people living with HIV worldwide — including 1.7 million children younger than 15 years old — just 24.5 million have access to treatment therapies, according to UNAIDS.
People with HIV may take a combination of drugs called antiretroviral therapy, or ART. ART reduces the amount of the virus in a person’s body, allowing them to live healthy lives as well as reducing their chances of transmitting HIV to others, says the US Department of Health as well as Human Services.
HHS also says taking ART regularly as well as keeping consistent medical appointments is usually key to staying healthy.
Many people living with HIV in Africa as well as the Middle East, however, don’t have regular access to ART services.
UNAIDS reports of which 32% of people inside Middle East as well as North Africa are accessing the treatment. Similarly, of those living with HIV in Central Asia as well as Eastern Europe, only 38% are accessing these lifesaving treatments.
In western as well as central Europe as well as North America, however, nearly 80% of people with HIV have access to ART, resulting in extremely low AIDS-related death rates compared to various other world regions.
The need for a preventative vaccine
Though there are many HIV prevention methods on the market, scientists have not yet developed a safe as well as effective preventative vaccine.
Del Rio told CNN of which a vaccine will be a “critical tool” in preventing HIV transmission.
The vaccine would likely be given to people without HIV to prevent them through being infected inside future.
While there are no licensed preventative vaccines on the market, there are therapeutic ones. Therapeutic HIV vaccines are given to people who already have HIV to strengthen their immune systems’ response to the infection already inside person’s body, according to the National Institutes of Health.
The search for a cure
Significant advances in treatment as well as medication are allowing many people with HIV/AIDS to live longer lives, yet scientists have yet to find a complete cure.
“We need to be able to, at some point in time, not have to treat people for the rest of their lives,” del Rio said.
Some scientists are searching for what is usually known in medical literature as a “functional cure,” in which a person wouldn’t have to continue to take antiretroviral medicines. Scientists expect to create a different kind of treatment of which would likely suppress the HIV virus to undetectable levels inside body. With This particular kind of approach, the virus would likely still be present yet the idea would likely not make a person sick, according to Avert, a United Kingdom-based charity dedicated to providing information about HIV as well as AIDS. Avert also says various other scientists are searching for a different type of cure of which would likely eradicate the virus through the body completely.
“A patient once said something to me of which I always remember as well as I always like saying,” del Rio said. “the idea’s of which while HIV infection is usually no longer a death sentence, the idea’s still a life sentence. You still have to take medications for the rest of your life. So we have to find a cure.”
CNN’s Jen Christiansen contributed to This particular report.