By Xin Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly
July 20, 2010
The XVIII International AIDS Conference took place in Vienna, Austria, from July 18th to the 23rd. The conference gathered those working in the field of HIV, as well as policy makers, persons living with HIV, and other individuals committed to ending the pandemic. The United Nations organizations have been working together towards preventing the spread of HIV.
A new treatment has been announced by UNAIDS (Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS) – treatment 2.0. It is cheaper, with lower toxicity, higher treatment coverage, and a lower mortality rate. Dr. Michel Sidibe, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, was excited and hopeful about this development. He said, “Treatment 2.0 is a ‘game changer’… more people will be able to afford the HIV treatment; more than 10 million deaths could be averted by 2025.”
Due to raising awareness of HIV, people, especially the younger generation, have been changing their sexual behavior. “For example, more and more young men and women from Namibia, Zimbabwe are choosing to have sex later, and wearing condoms,” said Dr. Michel Sidibe. According to the statistics provided by UNAIDS, in most African countries, the trends of HIV pandemic prevalence are steadily going upward.
UNAIDS again emphasized their classic guidelines for preventing HIV as “A-B-C”: Abstinence (delaying sexual activity), being faithful, and using condoms.
On the other hand, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) is urging healthcare providers, governments, and other partners to include a simple, yet vital, ingredient in the treatment of people living with HIV – good nutrition.
“There is a growing body of evidence that food and nutritional support are essential for keeping people living with HIV healthy for longer and for improving the effectiveness of treatment,” said Martin Bloem, WFP’s head of Nutrition and HIV.
“If people don’t have access to food, it is hard to take antiretroviral drugs, and the risk of going off the treatment rises. Among malnourished patients that start antiretroviral therapy (ART), the risk of death is 2 to 6 times higher compared to those who are receiving proper nourishment,” Bloem said during the AIDS 2010 conference in Vienna.
People living with HIV need more calories to help fight the virus. HIV-positive children need between 50-100 percent more calories than HIV-negative children, while adults need up to 300 percent more calories as the disease progresses.
Xin Huang is a senior at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma. He is participating in a summer internship in Geneva, Switzerland, where he is attending conferences at the United Nations.