Global Health Leaders Have Vision for World Without AIDS

BY Ray Suarez  September 26, 2012 at 6:46 PM EDT

Watch Ray Suarez moderate a panel of global health leaders as they discuss the future of combating AIDS. A live stream will be available here from noon to 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday.

Thursday in New York, the ICAP at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, (http://www.columbia-icap.org/), hosts a conference featuring some of the most prominent leaders in the world’s struggle against AIDS.

The theme is a provocative one: A Future Without AIDS, Dream or Reality? Strides in HIV suppression and breakthroughs in research have brought the world to the edge of what may be — may be — the beginning of the end of the disease as a worldwide scourge.

The anti-retroviral drugs that have become lifesavers around the world do more than just save one life at a time. ARVs suppress the HIV virus in the fluids of infected people. Mothers on ARVs are significantly less likely to give birth to HIV-infected children. Infected adults taking the drugs are significantly less likely to pass on the drug, even if they don’t take precautions in their sexual encounters. In short, ARVs save lives, lengthens lives and stops transmission.

ARVs are still beyond the reach of millions of infected people around the world. At the same time, American taxpayers are keeping millions of HIV positive people alive, keeping the infection from transitioning to full-blown cases of AIDS. Healthy people raise healthy children, work in farms and factories, and help their countries grow instead of holding them back.

It’s promising. After the tremendous struggles around the world to fight HIV, it’s tantalizing to imagine the next steps toward a world without AIDS. Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr of Columbia University and the founder of ICAP, has brought Dr. Michel Sidibe of UNAIDS; Dr. Eric Goosby, President Obama’s global AIDS coordinator; and Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health for a look at the way ahead. I will moderate the conference, and we’ll stream it live from Columbia University in New York, here at the Online NewsHour from noon to 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday.