The top HIV/AIDS adviser to US President George Bush, Dr Anthony Fauci, told an international conference of HIV/AIDS experts in Sydney yesterday that the world was losing the fight against HIV/AIDS.

In terms of the numbers, people were being infected with HIV at a faster rate than people being treated, said Fauci, who is director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Although there have been “overwhelming advances” in understanding, preventing and treating HIV, there is still a long way to go he told delegates during his keynote address at the opening of the International AIDS Society (IAS) meeting, which focusses on the scientific aspects of HIV pathogenesis, treatment and prevention.

There have been huge achievements in research and development of HIV drugs – 28 drugs approved by the FDA are now in the pipeline, said Fauci.

But what is not acceptable is that only 28 per cent of the people in the world who need the drugs actually get them, he added. “If you do the math, we have a serious problem,” he said. For every person who gets treated there are six people who become infected with the virus, he explained.

Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, also addressed the conference. He said that while the picture is not perfect, there are reasons to be hopeful.

For instance the number of people receiving treatment for HIV/AIDS in the developing world has grown from 100,000 in 2001 to 2.2 million today and it is still going up.

Also, the annual global spend on fighting HIV/AIDS has gone up from under 2 billion dollars to nearly 9 billion last year. Although that is still only half of what the United Nations said was needed to fight the virus properly, said Kazatchkine.

“Today, health is no longer seen as a happy by-product of development,” said Kazatchkine, but rather as a needed investment, according to a MedPage Today report on his speech.

An emerging area of concern is the rising incidence of HIV/AIDS with other infectious diseases, such as TB.

A conference session titled “HIV/TB Co-Infection: Meeting the Challenge” sponsored by the TB/HIV Working Group of the Stop TB Partnership, discussed the emerging and growing problem of joint TB/HIV infection.

While a good many people may know that TB kills about 2 million people a year worldwide, they may not realize that it’s the leading cause of death among people with HIV.

Renee Ridzon of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said at the session:

“It’s not a question if people in Africa will get TB but when.”

There are some serious gaps in the research on the overlap between the HIV and TB pandemics. The emergence of extensive drug resistant strains (XDR-TB) makes the need even more pressing and the organizers said they hoped the major sponsors of HIV research will come forward with money for research into this area.

Michel Sidibe, Deputy Executive Director of UNAIDS told the meeting that 2 billion dollars was needed to fund TB/HIV research.

The conference continues until Wednesday.

Click here for more information on the IAS conference, including Daily Bulletin.

Click here for theme by theme coverage on the IAS conference from MedPage Today.

Written by: Catharine Paddock
Writer: Medical News Today