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HIV, Aids cure just pie in the sky


Last week, I wrote about how prioritising HIV and Aids, which has become one of the fastest growing industries, is hurting the public health sector especially in developing countries.

I also questioned how so much money has failed to make a significant impact in reducing or reversing the effects of Aids.

There is general consensus that, despite the huge financial investments into HIV and Aids response, there is still little or nothing to show for such a thriving humanitarian response.

Not even the so-called Aids activists have questioned this lack of meaningful impact of such huge amounts of money poured into HIV and Aids.

All we hear is that more money is needed and that global leaders have to meet their commitments.

Could it be that these HIV and Aids activists are part of this big high-finance-guzzling-less output monster called the Aids industry?

It’s an industry that has created employment opportunities for, arguably, more millions of people worldwide than the affected and huge income base for condom and ARV- producing companies.

Forget about the 2,7 million new infections, the 2 million Aids-related deaths per year or the 33 million people living with the virus who urgently need treatment, association with the industry has been described by many as a cash cow.

The Aids lobbyists have propelled an upsurge in global health funding towards Aids, known for having the most vocal lobby groups, and not to the diseases with the greatest need which are in fact the leading killers. Aids-related deaths account for 5,7% of deaths in developing countries.

This begs the question: Is this world being candid about dealing with the HIV and Aids problem?

Or have people settled for the idea that Aids is here to stay and it is a lucrative industry, whose existence might be threatened by the discovery of a vaccine which may render hundreds of millions jobless and deplete income for ARV pharmaceutical companies?

This is a cunning world where one person’s problem is a survival opportunity for another.

There is no doubt that the 33 million people living with the virus are a potentially guaranteed long-term market for ARV-producing companies, only that the global funders have not released enough to oil the industry and pay for the drugs for everyone in need.

Nevertheless, UNAids projects a budget requirement of $172 billion by 2015 to avert 2,6 million new infections and 1,3 million deaths.

If the current funding is not reaching the needy, is there any guarantee that the 172 billion-plus will make an impact?

While HIV and Aids practitioners are experimenting with sloppy methods such as circumcision and gels on human life, the development of a vaccine or cure is facing a range of challenges from scientific, social and logistical problems.

The huge investments into research for the vaccine have not yielded much knowledge about understanding the HIV virus.

The ability of the virus to mutate and recombine into a new a structure is a headache among researchers.

The situation is made worse by the ability of the virus to activate immune responses that are harmful to the human body, and which accelerate further infection.

The lack of an appropriate and practical animal model, which shares the same biological characteristics as human beings, on which to study the pathogenesis and investigate chemotherapeutic drugs is another stumbling block.

These models would allow researchers to study the vaccine’s efficacy under various viral challenges.

Chimpanzees have been used for this purpose, but they have shown different clinical course of infection to humans and are moreover very expensive to breed and in short supply.

This leaves human beings as the only other option for testing purposes.

But there are ethical issues around the trials on human beings.

People willing to volunteer must be made aware of the possible complications that come with being HIV positive, in addition to the expensive compensation should anything happen.

This reduces the hopes for a vaccine to nothing but pie in the sky.

For now, to avoid people profiting or surviving from your health problems, keep it safe by resorting to safer sexual behaviour.

Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa

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