FAQ about TTEA and
After decades of research, scientists
still have not found a cure or vaccine for HIV. What evidence do
you have that the test-and-treat strategy will work?
The most optimistic projections suggest that we are at
least 10 years away from developing an effective vaccine or a cure
for HIV. While male circumcision reduces female-to-male transmission
by about 60 percent and a recently developed vaginal microbicide
reduces male-to-female transmission by up to 54 percent, neither
of these is sufficient to halt transmission. The most significant
support for test-and-treat comes from the NIH’s HPTN 052 study,
which found that antiretroviral therapy was 96 percent effective
in stopping HIV transmissions.
Is HIV testing mandatory?
No, testing is voluntary. However, full and committed involvement
of the community is essential for the test-and-treat strategy to
work. Understandably, people are afraid of being infected, afraid
of people knowing that they are infected, and afraid of being stigmatized
and abused. But by being open, by treating the infection like any
other infection, by acknowledging the scale of the problem and by
educating people about the new drugs to keep people healthy and
to render them noninfectious, we may eliminate fear and minimize
stigma and discrimination. Admittedly, full participation will be
difficult to attain, and some people may not be fully compliant so
that the effective reduction in transmission will be less than 100 percent.
Our preliminary work suggests that a realistic expectation would
be to achieve a greater than 70 percent reduction in HIV transmission.
That result is still better than any other proven intervention method.
Why would people who test positive for
HIV want to start taking drugs immediately?
The test-and-treat strategy will not only dramatically reduce the
chances that an infected person will transmit HIV to others but
it will improve an individual’s prognosis. Of note, current
treatment guidelines from the International AIDS Society –
USA Panel do recommend treatment to be started much
earlier than the World Health Organization guidelines. It is important
to understand, however, that no one will be forced to start taking
drugs — it will be an individual choice.