Dr. Julio Montaner, the director of the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, has proposed this idea with a perspective article that appears in tomorrow's special issue of medical journal The Lancet that is devoted to AIDS research.
Dr. Montaner said, "This is a mathematical model, if you want to call it that way, that suggests that if we were to aggressively expand the anti-retroviral therapy use, we could see a very substantial decrease in transmissions. In fact, over a period of three to four decades, we could see an extinguishing of the HIV epidemic."
The doctor went on to explain that the model was still very theoretical and is based on the data received from Taiwan that had showed statistically that the new infections had fallen to 53% after the introduction to free access of the highly active anti-retroviral therapy or HAART. The doctor but also cautioned that this idea should not be taken as a licence for careless sexual behaviour, but only as a secondary preventive measure.
Montaner and his co-authors while explaining that the simple idea could be cost effective if it reduces the mounting incidence of cases of HIV/AIDS worldwide, also said that the current approach that is being followed is not sustainable in the longer run, due to the alarming rate of increase in the global pandemic of HIV, and due to the lack of prevention and treatment strategies that aren't completely effective and the lack of a preventive vaccine.
Dr. Montaner, who is also the chair's the AIDS research at the University of British Columbia said, "We have received a lot of encouraging support from our colleagues not only in North America, but in the rest of the world."
Meanwhile Dr. Philip Berger, a physician from Toronto who has been working in Lesotho, an African nation where an estimated 23% of adults are HIV positive, dismissed the idea, stating that people who are infected with HIV may not be willing to start taking antiretroviral drugs before treatment is needed, given its side effects. He further explained that in the sub-Saharan Africa where people are dying because of lack of treatment, the priority should be on meeting emergency needs now.
Montaner has meanwhile expressed hopes for testing the hypothesis with his own study in B.C.