36.7 million people are living with AIDS worldwide today. 40% are not aware of their HIV status. To date, only half of those affected have access to antiretrovirals. These figures are published while trials are being carried out on volunteers in South Africa for an experimental vaccine.
“Today, 40% of people with HIV (more than 14 million) do not know their status,” said the World Health Organization in a statement, citing figures from 2015.
This is an extrapolation based on the number of people who tested positive for HIV and who did not know it at the time of the test.
However, the trend has improved significantly over the past ten years thanks to screening. The WHO indicates that between 2005 and 2015, the proportion of people who know their HIV status increased from 12% to 60% worldwide.
According to a study published by the European Union, one in seven HIV carriers in the EU is unaware of their condition.
The insufficient number of HIV diagnoses is a major obstacle to the implementation of the WHO recommendation to offer antiretroviral treatment (ART) to all people with HIV.
Today, 80% of people diagnosed with HIV are on ART.
+ 10% each year in Russia
The number of people living with HIV in Russia has already exceeded one million infected people, warned the director of the Federal Center for the fight against AIDS Vadim Pokrovski.
“The number of people living with HIV increases by 10% each year and officially reached 1,087,339 people on September 30,” said Pokrovski at a press conference in Moscow.
With 146.5 million inhabitants, the official rate of HIV positive in Russia thus amounts to 0.58% of the population, he specifies.
“According to our calculations, the number of HIV positive people is actually between 1.3 million and 1.4 million people”, or between 0.89 and 0.96% of the population, he adds.
In 2015, 110,000 new cases were officially registered in Russia, or 270 new HIV-positive people per day.
Duplication of patients placed on antiretrovirals in five years worldwide
The number of AIDS patients on anti-retroviral treatment (ARV) has reached 18.2 million people, that is to say half of the people who live today in the world with HIV / AIDS, announced on Monday the UNAIDS in a report.
In June 2016, “18.2 million people” had access to treatment, 1 million more than at the start of the year and twice as much as five years ago, according to UNAIDS.
“If these efforts are continued, we will be able to reach the target of 30 million people on treatment by 2020,” hopes UNAIDS, which unveiled its report in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, one of the most most affected on the planet.
About half of AIDS patients currently have access to treatment worldwide, where 36.7 million people are living with AIDS.
According to the director of Onusida, Michel Sidibé, “the progress made is remarkable, particularly with regard to treatments which remain incredibly fragile.
Despite this progress, the report recalls that young girls and women aged 15-24 are particularly vulnerable to the virus, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Young women face a triple threat: a high risk of infections, few tests and little follow-up of treatment. There is an urgent need to do more,” said Mr. Sidibé.
According to the UNAIDS report, 7,500 girls were infected every week in 2015 worldwide.
In South Africa, the very high rate of contamination among young women and adolescent girls is explained in particular by the phenomenon of “sugar daddies”, where older men barter gifts and money for unprotected sex.
Most countries are still far from reaching the UNAIDS target of treating 90% of infected patients by 2020.
There is currently no vaccine or drug to cure AIDS, ARV treatment only to control the evolution of the virus and increase the life expectancy of people with HIV.
Glimmer of hope for a vaccine
South Africa is kicking off a clinical trial on an unprecedented scale to test an experimental AIDS vaccine which, if confirmed to be effective, could finally help reverse the disease.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the story of the quest for a vaccine against the HIV virus remains that of the pursuit of an inaccessible Grail. Over thirty years of effort, until then in vain.
But, for the first time perhaps since the virus was identified in 1983, scientists believe they have found a promising candidate.
Called HVTN 702, the study which begins Wednesday will involve for four years more than 5,400 sexually active volunteers, men and women aged 18 to 35, in fifteen sites spread across South Africa.
This clinical trial, one of the largest ever undertaken, has rekindled the hopes of the scientific community.
“If used in conjunction with the proven prevention tools we already use, a safe and effective vaccine could be the death blow against HIV,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the American National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
“Even a moderately effective vaccine would significantly reduce the burden of the disease in highly infected countries and populations,” added the boss of NIAID, which is participating in the study.
The choice of South Africa to test this vaccine on a large scale is not trivial. This southern African country has one of the highest prevalence rates in the world (19.2% according to UNAIDS). More than 7 million people are living there with HIV.
Around the world, two and a half million people are infected each year by the virus, which has killed more than 30 million since the 1980s, according to a study published at the international conference in Durban (eastern Africa South) in July.
The “South African” vaccine, specially adapted for local populations, is a “muscular” version of a strain tested in 2009 in Thailand on more than 16,000 volunteers.
It had reduced the risk of contamination by 31.2% three and a half years after the first vaccination.
‘Change the deal’
The safety of the “South African” vaccine has already been successfully tested for eighteen months on 252 volunteers. The new study now aims to test its effectiveness.
“The results obtained in Thailand are not sufficient for a launch (…). We have set the minimum efficiency threshold at 50%”, explained to AFP Dr Lynn Morris, of the National Institute south – African Communicable Disease (NICD).
“We hope that the efficiency will be even stronger,” enthused recently deputies South African vice president Cyril Ramaphosa.
Despite the hopes raised by this vaccine, specialists insist on the need not to lower your guard against the disease.
“An effective vaccine would be a game-changer, but these trials will take years,” said Dr. Morris. “We must continue to use other means of prevention to reduce new infections.”
Antiretroviral (ARV) treatments remain by far the most effective against the disease today.
According to UNAIDS, half of the approximately 36 million people infected with the virus living in the world have access to it. A figure that has doubled in five years.
Thanks to these treatments, which make it possible to control the evolution of the virus and increase the life expectancy of HIV-positive people, the life expectancy of South Africans has jumped from 57.1 to 62.9 years on average since 2009 , according to local authorities.
Trials for the new vaccine are being conducted by the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH), the South African Council for Medical Research (SAMRC), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Sanofi Pasteur Labs, GlaxoSmithKline and the HIV vaccine trials (HVTN).