End of HIV transmission could be just years away, health officials say

Many U.S. health officials and HIV experts said they believe a future with halted HIV transmission rates could be only a few years away, according to STAT.

Here are five things to know:

1. The CDC has collected data on reported HIV-related deaths for the last 30 years, finding more than half a million people have died from AIDS.

"We have the science to solve the AIDS epidemic," Robert Redfield, MD, director of the CDC, told STAT. "We’ve invested in it. Let's put it into action.”

2. The hope for halted HIV transmission lies within the potent antiretroviral drugs on the market today, which can drastically decrease the amount of HIV virus in an infected patient's system to undetectable levels. In this state of viral suppression, infected individuals are no longer contagious. STAT cited data from several studies showing no new HIV infections occurred among about 80,000 condomless sex acts between male partners, where one partner was HIV-negative and the other was HIV-positive but had the virus suppressed.

3. Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, along with leading health experts point out the goal of stopping HIV transmission is "theoretical." There will always be new cases, and many barriers still exist to treating the 40,000 people who contract HIV annually.

"We live in a real world, we don't live in a theoretical world," Dr. Fauci told STAT.

4. PrEP remains one of the top medications for HIV prevention, reducing an individual's chance of contracting HIV by 95 percent. Yet, PrEP only benefits those taking it. The CDC estimates around 1.1 million people in the U.S. should be on a PrEP regimen, but only 200,000 are.

5. Physicians are partly to blame for the gap in PrEP coverage, according to STAT.

"There is a large number of people who are not comfortable prescribing PrEP or have not been taught how to prescribe PrEP, whether it be in their residency, fellowship or post-graduate training," Robert Goldstein, MD, medical director of the transgender health program at Boston-based Massachusetts General Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, also in Boston, told the publication.

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