MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – The opening remarks of Dr. Luiz Loures at a UNAIDS satellite session on Sunday were delayed by activists rushing the stage to call for an ambitious target of undetectable viral load to form the core of new global HIV goals matched by funding, treatment options, laws and policies to meet the new target. Some 50 international and national civil society organizations of people living with HIV and their advocates called for universal access to viral load testing and the opportunity for an undetectable viral load for all people living with HIV by 2020. They argue in a press release issued on Sunday here in Melbourne that “reaching an undetectable viral load is the closest thing we have to a cure for HIV.”
Viral load testing has long been the standard of HIV care in the United States and other developed countries but is not currently available to patients living in most low-income countries where the majority of people living with HIV live. The World Health Organization recommends routine viral load monitoring to monitor treatment effectiveness and it is now well known that viral suppression in people with HIV is essential to reduce or eliminate the risk of HIV transmission to others.
Chanting “We can’t end AIDS until everyone is undetectable,” the advocates received a warm reception from the members of the high-level panel assembled to discuss a new target for HIV treatment of 30 million people on treatment by 2030. “”You are just reinforcing my personal view on this issue,” responded UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé.
The groups’ call for action also acknowledges that viral load monitoring will require lower prices for the test, the removal of patent barriers that make antiretroviral drugs too expensive for many and robust funding for the HIV treatment response from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and for country governments, among other measures. The full statement is available here.