HIV Would 'Remain A Threat' Even If World Achieved 'AIDS-Free Generation' By Any Definition

Lawrence Altman, former senior medical correspondent for the New York Times, writes in an opinion analysis in the newspaper that while there was much discussion about “ending the AIDS epidemic” and an “AIDS-free generation” at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) last week in Washington, D.C., “[o]ne obstacle is a failure to clearly define the epidemic or what it means to have an AIDS-free generation.” He continues, “Definitions of terms like these may help determine how many billions of dollars the world devotes to the battle against AIDS and how many millions of lives will be extended. A failure to meet ill-defined goals could lead to public misunderstandings that limit investments and the number of people who have access to the lifesaving antiretroviral drugs in the future.”

Altman summarizes different people’s definitions of an “AIDS-free generation,” discusses disease transmission and eradication, and writes, “The conference participants who spoke of eradicating or eliminating AIDS failed to recognize that a vaccine was required to succeed against smallpox and polio.” Altman continues, “This is not the end of an epidemic in any sense as we have understood it; an AIDS-free generation, if it arrives, will live in a world where H.I.V. very much remains a threat” (7/30).