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Closing the gaps in HIV/AIDS: World AIDS Day 2014

The theme of World Aids Day this year is “Closing the gap”. The United Nations says there are gaps in prevention, testing, education, funding, research, treatment, access, innovation and knowledge, and that many groups are being “left behind”.

New WHO guidelines

To mark World AIDS Day 2014, the World Health Organization has released new guidelines on providing antiretrovirals (ARVs) as emergency prophylaxis following HIV exposure, and on the use of co-trimoxazole to prevent HIV-related infections.
In 2013, the WHO published consolidated guidelines on the use of antiretrovirals that promote earlier, simpler and less toxic interventions to keep people healthier for longer, and to help prevent HIV transmission. A growing number of countries with a high burden of HIV have adopted these guidelines. In 2013, a record 13 million people were able to access life-saving ARVs.
Gottfried Hirnschall, director of the Department of HIV/AIDS at the WHO, says: “Today, more than 14 million people are taking ARVs – a sure sign that the world is working towards closing the gap in providing access to HIV treatment. The drugs they take have become much cheaper, safer, and simpler (just one pill a day instead of a handful of different tablets). They are able to start taking them earlier, before they get sick. They take those medicines to keep themselves healthy. But also to limit the chance that HIV gets passed on to their partners and their children.
“I have just returned from South Africa. South Africa has the world’s largest HIV epidemic, but has now become a shining example of what can be achieved, with drive, commitment, resources, and the willingness to embrace innovations quickly. Today, more than 2.7 million people are taking ARVs; services are available from grass-roots level up; there has recently been a major scale-up of testing, and the country has a concrete plan on the way forward.”
We have come a long way, but challenges remain. Too many people still lack access to comprehensive HIV treatment and prevention services.

FIP, pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists

FIP knows that pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists are helping to close many of the gaps. At its annual congress (Bangkok 2014), participants heard how pharmacists are paying close attention to non-adherence in order to avoid consequences of interruptions to ARV treatment. They also heard that pharmaceutical scientists have worked to get 28 HIV/AIDS drugs approved in the past 26 years. A look through FIP’s Pharmacists Organisations and Pharmacists Activities Database (POPAD) also contains details of how pharmacists around the world are closing the gaps. A few examples are:

•    Prevention – In Portugal, a pharmacy and mobile clinic syringe exchange programme implemented to prevent HIV transmission among intravenous drug users is estimated to have prevented about 7,000 infections.
•    Testing – In Spain, pharmacies in the Basque Country, Catalonia, Castilla & León, Ceuta, Melilla, Asturias, Cantabria and the Balearic Islands are providing rapid HIV testing, reaching those who might not otherwise get tested.
•    Education – The Turkish Pharmacists Association are among a number of pharmacy bodies raising awareness of HIV/AIDS. The association has run around 100 educational sessions in secondary schools.

If you have any more examples, please send them to profession@fip.org.

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