Last Thursday, December 1st marked World AIDS Day, a day dedicated to acknowledging the progress being made worldwide in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. Due to historic levels of investment in the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and other HIV/AIDS initiatives, great strides are being made to achieve the first AIDS-free generation in over 30 years.

As of 2016, PEPFAR is supporting nearly 11.5 million people on antiretroviral treatment and has prevented nearly two million babies from being born with HIV, almost twice as many as three years ago. Data from population-based HIV impact assessments (PHIAs) indicates that the epidemic is becoming more controlled in older adults and babies in Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, where HIV-infected adults see an average of 65 percent community viral load suppression. In 2013, 650 children were newly infected with HIV every day. As of 2016, that number has dropped to 400.

This progress results from a multitude of research initiatives and clinical trials that are exploring the most effective ways to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS. Two notable clinical trials announced in 2016 are The Ring Study and ASPIRE, “sister studies” that look at the efficacy of monthly, self-inserted vaginal rings that provide women a sustained release of antiretroviral treatment. The study results indicated strong adherence to treatment, a common problem with antiretroviral pills and gels, and new HIV infections were reduced by 31 percent in The Ring Study and by 27 percent in ASPIRE. The results of the studies suggest that the ring could significantly improve HIV prevention in women, who currently carry the highest burden of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The UCLA Center for World Health and its affiliated faculty are proud to implement a number of projects worldwide dedicated to preventing and treating HIV/AIDS. One such project is a collaborative effort with the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation on its “Children Affected by HIV and AIDS Strategic Initiative.” With support from the Hilton Foundation, we are providing early childhood development training to HIV+ mothers in Malawi as part of their regular medical care for HIV. The Hilton Foundation project is fully integrated into our PEPFAR funding, whereby we are providing training and support for medical personnel on the front lines of HIV care. Our efforts have brought mother-to-child transmission of HIV down to 3% nationwide, and now our goal is to not only help children to survive, but also to thrive.

For additional information on the projects of the UCLA Center for World Health, the David Geffen School of Medicine, and UCLA Health, please visit our EXPLORE database: worldhealth.med.ucla.edu/index.php/explore/.

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