Australia’s top scientists have declared that AIDS is no longer a public health issue in the country as it has joined the ranks of the few nations which have successfully beaten the deadly epidemic.
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) cases in Australia have dropped since anti-retroviral medication came in the mid-1990s, which stops the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) from progressing to AIDS – where the immune system is so badly damaged it cannot fight off infection.
At its peak in the early 1990s, about 1,000 Australians died from AIDS each year, researchers said.
According to Professor Andrew Grulich, head of the HIV Epidemiology and Prevention Programme at the Kirby Institute, the number is now so low, it was not even recorded.
“These days we don’t even monitor it, it’s a transitory thing for most people; people have AIDS, then they go on treatment and they don’t have AIDS anymore,” Grulich said.
“The only cases we see of AIDS these days are people undiagnosed with HIV and so they can’t be treated,” he said.
Professor Sharon Lewin, director of the Peter Doherty Institute, said anti-retroviral medications had been game-changers, allowing someone with HIV to live a long and healthy life.
“I’ve actually seen a dramatic transformation of HIV from a universal death sentence to now a chronic, manageable disease,” Lewin said.
Despite the progress, researchers said that the end of AIDS did not mean the end of HIV, ‘ABC News’ reported.
“One of the problems we still have in Australia is people not getting tested, not knowing they’re infected with HIV, and turning up for their first test when they already have AIDS, or already have significant immune damage,” Lewin said.
Nearly 34 million people have died of HIV since the beginning of the epidemic.
According to a 2013 UNAIDS – the United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS – report, India has the third-highest number of people living with HIV in the world with 2.1 million Indians accounting for about four out of 10 people infected with the deadly virus in the Asia-Pacific region.
Asia and the Pacific have the largest number of people living with HIV after sub-Saharan Africa, it noted.