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|Credit: zoofytheji, www.sxc.hu
There are now 9.7 million people in treatment in low- and middle-income countries, the great majority of them in Africa. That’s cause for applause. However, nearly 19 million additional people are in need of treatment now, and there seems little chance of rolling out drugs fast enough to save 19 million lives. That’s cause for despair.
How do you treat an incurable disease? There is no cure for AIDS—yet. Treatment involves complicated drug regimens at different stages of infection to keep the infected person alive and as healthy as possible. As in everything else to do with HIV, treatment is affected by gender and geography; by money, social class, luck and opportunity.
At what stage of their disease should people get antiretroviral medication, and why does the answer to this depend on where they live? We question the different treatment standards in rich and poor countries. Who bears the burden of looking after the sick while they undergo treatment, or their orphaned children when treatment is missing or ineffective? We push for more integrated approaches to AIDS care, approaches that recognize the disproportionate burden on women. Why does preventing HIV in babies sometimes mean making mothers resistant to future treatment? We point out the fallacies in boastful claims of mother-and-child prevention and treatment programs. Who pays for treatment, who has the right to produce and market medicines, who decides who gets it and who doesn’t? We look closely at the economics and politics of treatment.
We look at all aspects of treatment, from research biases to access. We question the accepted standard of “universal access,” which is defined as access by 80% of HIV-positive people. We ask: what about the other 20%?