Stephen Lewis: Overcome 'terrible double standard' on HIV treatment

A number of research studies on finding a cure to HIV were presented as the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., drew to a close Friday (July 27).

Two HIV cases unveiled Thursday at the conference showed two patients who had HIV are now living virus-free after undergoing bone marrow transplants. One has been HIV-free for two years now, while the other has been living without the virus for three and a half years.

The researchers, however, are being cautious and do not yet want to declare them cured, MSNBC reports.

Another study presented at the conference, meanwhile, looked into vorinostat, a cancer drug found to flush out latent HIV from patients. A  third study made the case for the need to get people “very early” on treatment.

All these sound promising for the more than 34 million people who continue to live with the virus. And they may come handy to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s blueprint to an AIDS-free generation.

But the fight against HIV and AIDS still has a long way to go. There remain a number of challenges that need to be overcome, including the lack of resources, the need to focus on key populations and the “terrible double standard.”

Stephen Lewis, co-founder and co-director of AIDS-Free World, said the world needs to have an objective — and that is to have a similar regimen across the world in providing treatment to those who need it. He said that in the United States, people can almost immediately start on treatment, while in other parts of the globe, people wait to become really sick before getting treatment.

“Many of them simply don’t survive,” he told Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!

Lewis’ words ring true in most parts of the world, including in Myanmar, where, according to Peter Paul de Groote of Médecins Sans Frontières, there is an “enormous treatment gap.”

Due to a shortage of antiretroviral therapy supplies and funds, “We send people home who are very sick. We tell them that if they are sicker and come back, maybe we can take them,” he told Global Post.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.