It is estimated that there are 36.7 million people living with HIV globally with 1.8 million new infections in 2016 alone (1). This number represents an 11% drop in the number of new infections from 2010 . Some might consider this an achievement or a testament to the impact of strategic national and global policies aimed at tackling the epidemic. But in reality, these numbers mask the discrepant pace in the effort to tackle transmission and AIDS-related deaths in countries across the globe.
By Anastasia Koch and Bianca Masuku, Eh!woza(Photo credit: Ed Young/Eh!woza)
Khayelitsha, a peri-urban township outside of Cape Town, South Africa, has some of the highest rates of HIV and TB in the world. Many members of this community have had personal experiences with TB and HIV, either being directly infected or as a result of the death of loved ones. This is also the setting for a major clinical research site established by The Clinical Infectious Diseases Research Initiative (CIDRI). The research group, which focusses on finding better ways to intervene in and understand HIV-associated TB, was established by Professor Robert Wilkinson and has laboratory and academic space at the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM).
By Professor Sarah J Fidler, Professor of HIV and Communicable Diseases at Imperial College London
There has been the most dramatic improvement in the treatment and care now available for people living with HIV; a result of combination antiretroviral therapy (ART). This represents a huge success in terms of life expectancy as well as reducing the risk of passing virus infection from an HIV-positive person to their partners or children. In fact, if people start on ART when they first test HIV-positive and remain on treatment so that the level of virus in their blood tests remains below the limit of detection; “undetectable” they can expect to live a normal healthy life and not risk passing the virus on to their partners or children.