The 69th World Health Assembly is to take place from May 23rd to the 28th. The agenda includes many topics that the World Health Organization (WHO) must aim to either solve or make some progress towards its solution. The strategy comes from the fact that, over the past years, several public health problems have surfaced. Thus, including the spread of Ebola, Zika and of course, HIV/AIDS.

A Draft Strategy for treating HIV is set amid the items on the assembly’s agenda so there is a global commitment to fight the disease through more effective methods. One of the main concerns is that there has not been enough funding for research and developing a cure, Only because the disease is not in the focus of attention of world politics.

Currently, anti-retroviral drugs and HIV vaccine typically aim at improving the immune response
Currently, anti-retroviral drugs and HIV vaccine typically aim at improving the immune response of the patient in the long term. Image Credit: HIV Equal

The strategy stated on the agenda places a heavy emphasis on the development  of public health structures for each country. It also refers to gender-related issues that act upon the appearance of HIV/AIDS. Specifically, cases where LGBT communities are involved, homophobia and whether men or women are more likely to contract the HIV. But still, there are no major actions stated within the strategy.

The many appendages of HIV/AIDS infection

Developing countries are limited due to their resources and social problems. Although it is of vital importance to put funds and political effort towards developing an efficient public health system. There are many other economical and social issues that require the attention of a country’s administration.

HIV has many implications over the whole subject of sex and reproduction. Men and women who are infected with HIV/AIDS are almost certain to transmit the disease to their child. Contraception has become a solution even if it doesn’t help alleviate the disease. But it does allow for preventing an infected baby being born. Access to contraceptive methods is largely biased depending on the country’s policies.

This topic was discussed on the Women Deliver conference, which ended last Thursday, were speakers celebrated their efforts towards improving reproductive health of everyone, no matter the age or genre. Nigerian speaker Chiamaka Uzomba referred to the fact that it is the duty of world leaders to work towards eliminating the factors that limit access to contraception, specially for young people. Africa is the continent with the most worrying state of reproductive health, as only 1 out of 5 Africans resort to contraceptive methods; most cases of fatal abortions and childbirths could also have been prevented if the mother had resorted to healthy contraception alternatives.

HIV AIDS may have encountered a vaccine in the near future
The researchers believe that by harnessing the power of the PGT121 family of antibodies. Image Credit: Hindustan Times

It is a fact that efforts to fight HIV are biased by the media’s attention, since politicians do not put enough interest to include binding choices towards developing efficient and public contraceptive alternatives, specifically in Africa, where AIDS has become the main cause of death for young adults and teenagers.

But when there are enough resources for patients to seek treatment, then social issues arise and create another latent problem. In developed countries, gay men have a higher tendency of contracting HIV/AIDS, and this phenomenon can be easily witnessed in the United States, where southern states carry almost half of all HIV-infected people in America as most of the infected are gay black men.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) points out that the cause behind this is social discrimination in the form of racism and homophobia. The issue is as follows: because race and gender issues are stigmatized in the U.S. southern states, patients are less inclined towards seeking treatment, either because of ignorance or due to fear of being ridiculed.

Since people are not comfortable talking about HIV, homosexuality and racism, it diverts into the patient not wanting to seek out preventive or treatment solutions.

Although there are hundreds of issues and obstacles related to the spread and treatment of HIV/AIDS, there may be a solution that will radically change the panorama in the following years. A vaccine was tested in Thailand back in 2009; its results were minimal but researchers have not stopped to work towards improving it. Now, about 5,000 volunteers in South Africa are set to receive a set of five HIV shots in one year, starting in November.

Going for the cure with the latest HIV vaccines 

The study is referred to as HVTN 702, and its goal is to finally witness development towards a HIV vaccine that is safe and effective for the patients. The vaccine is the product of years of experimentation, and it could actually mean the plausible eradication of the virus. The study is waiting for approval by the government and its results are expected to be released by 2020.

The current vaccine is based on its Thai counterpart, where it was modified to work upon the HIV strains that are present in Africa. The previous vaccine, HVTN 100 was a partial success, as it reportedly helped prevent infection in a 31.2 percent rate for three years after the patient received the shot. Both HVTN 702 and HVTN 100 are funded by the Pox-Protein Public Private Partnership, which is a group of several public and private entities (including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. Military HIV Research Program) that are setting efforts towards developing an effective HIV vaccine.

The participants are to be closely monitored and the shots they receive throughout the year may be dummies or real vaccines. If HVTN 702 proves to be successful, we may actually look upon an AIDS-free world, were both social and political implications are out of question for good, allowing the world to set its attention towards other important matters.

Source: National Institutes of Health