An effective vaccine combined with implementation of current scientific tools “could be the nail in the coffin for HIV” in 10 years, said Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. But the amount of progress made depends largely on the political, economic and financial commitment of the entire world, he added.
Fauci was among the panelists at The Washington Post’s December 5 discussion “Pathways to Progress: Combating the HIV/AIDS Epidemic.” The epidemic killed 1 million people worldwide in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Deborah Birx, M.D., Ambassador-at-Large and global AIDS coordinator and special representative for global health diplomacy at the U.S. Department of State, said communication is also key to stopping the epidemic.
“We have millions of people still dying and it isn’t in the press and it isn’t being discussed and it isn’t in the schools,” said Birx. “So 16-year-olds are becoming HIV positive who didn’t even know they were at risk.”
Awareness efforts, which should be led by community-based organizations, must tackle issues of stigma and discrimination that often prevent people from seeking care, said Gregg H. Alton, JD, executive vice president, corporate and medical affairs, Gilead Sciences, Inc., which sponsored the event.
Dionne Warwick, Grammy award-winning musician and long-time HIV/AIDS activist, said educating the public about HIV/AIDS – and reaching young people in particular – means meeting them where they are. She cited, as an example, the effective use of television ads and comic books to educate teenagers early in the epidemic.
“We have to be advocates for ourselves, our neighbors, our neighbors’ children,” said Warwick.
Visit http://wapo.st/2B1iR95 for video of the event.