On World AIDS Day, celebrating progress and pledging more action

November 30, 2015 | by Denise Heady

On Dec. 1, which marks World AIDS Day, communities across the globe will reflect on the tremendous progress made in the fight against HIV and AIDS. They will also focus on how to end AIDS as a global public health threat.

The good news is that the number of new HIV infections continues to drop. Researchers and health officials are making strides in both preventing and treating the disease. For many patients, what was once was a death sentence is now, with the proper therapy, a chronic condition.

Advances such as antiretroviral therapy, also known as ART, have revolutionized HIV treatment. Now, researchers are edging closer to the ultimate goal – to not only treat HIV and AIDS, but to also find a cure.  

“These (antiretroviral) drugs have made a massive difference, but they’re not perfect,” said Alexandra Levine, M.D., M.A.C.P., City of Hope’s chief medical officer. She is an expert in HIV/AIDS and is a professor in the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation.  

In spite of these advances, however, the HIV/AIDS pandemic continues to affect millions. More than 34 million people worldwide are now living with HIV or AIDS. About 1.1 million of those cases are in the United States, where approximately 18,000 people die of the disease each year.

Someone is infected with HIV every 9.2 minutes. Young people, between the ages of 19 to 29, are more likely to be the ones being infected.  Worldwide, there are 7,000 new infections each day, but only 24 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS are taking anti-viral drugs.

Up to 60 percent of those infected with the HIV virus don’t realize it, Levine said. It can take approximately 10 years before any symptoms appear, which makes it easy for people to unknowingly spread the virus for years.

It’s numbers like these that make the official motto of World AIDS Day - The Time to Act is Now - even more urgent.  Educating young people on HIV/AIDS, and getting the word out to others, is critical to decreasing the incidence rates of the disease, said Levine.

“If there is any phrase I want you to remember, it is to respect yourself,” Levine said to a group of nearly 300 high school students at the ninth annual San Gabriel Valley HIV/AIDS Summit, held at City of Hope last month.

”That’s really what it takes to prevent yourself from becoming infected with HIV,” Levine said. “It all comes down to you.”

Learn more about HIV/AIDS research at City of Hope.

If you are looking for a second opinion or consultation about your treatment, request an appointment online or contact us at 800-826-HOPE. Please visit Making Your First Appointment for more information.

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