Breaking through the stigma, discrimination and fear that stopped people from learning the facts of HIV has been a vital part of the response so far, especially for increasing the numbers of people testing and getting treatment. With a new generation coming to sexual maturity the need for relevant, accessible information remains as important as ever to prevent the cycle of HIV continuing.
A new tool was added to the HIV prevention arsenal in 2006 when voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) was found to reduce sexual transmission of HIV from women to men by 60%, making it the only one-off intervention that reduces the risk of HIV infection while being highly cost-effective.
Another important moment in HIV prevention came in 2010 when a trial proved that pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) – which uses a course of drugs usually used to treat HIV – was effective in providing protection against HIV infection. This was further supported by convincing results in the UK’s PROUD study in 2015 and many other studies since.
Alongside this, the strengthening of prevention of mother-to-child transmission programmes in sub-Saharan Africa was a huge achievement for countries with generalised epidemics. As for what comes next, there is optimism around the potential of the PrEP vaginal ring, which was endorsed by the World Health Organization earlier this year. More recently, long-lasting injectable treatments have been approved for use in some countries too.
In 2017, the “Undetectable = Untransmittable” slogan is used to spread awareness that those who take antiretroviral treatment regularly, and have achieved an undetectable viral load as a result, cannot pass on the virus to others. This helps to address stigma towards people with HIV.