Today is World AIDS Day and for many Americans who are HIV positive or who have AIDS, the outlook for those living with the disease has never – thankfully – been more promising. The HIV/AIDS epidemic that began in the early 1980’s has taken the lives of far too many – over 650,000 Americans as of 2012. But through research and innovation, treatment options today bring hope to patients.
Once an acute, fatal disease, HIV/AIDS can now be a chronic, manageable condition thanks in large part to advances in biopharmaceutical research and new medicines. Since AIDS was first reported in 1981, over 40 medicines have been approved to treat HIV infections in the United States and advances in medicines have helped lower the death rate nearly 85 percent since its peak in 1985. Moreover, new antiretroviral treatments and continued innovation have prevented almost 900,000 premature HIV/AIDS deaths. Today, a 20 year old diagnosed with HIV can expect to live to the age 70 -- the average life expectancy for the U.S. population as a whole.
Researching and developing new medicines remains a risky investment and a lengthy process. On average, it costs $2.6 billion and takes between 10 to 15 years to bring a new medicine to patients. Despite the risks, America’s biopharmaceutical research companies are continuing their efforts to develop novel and more effective treatments, vaccines to prevent HIV infection and potentially find a cure.
For some however, access to needed medications which can keep HIV from developing into AIDS has been a challenge, with some exchange plans requiring step-therapy or coverage with high coinsurance. For many who have HIV/AIDS, access to medication is essential to keeping the disease from worsening.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that over one million Americans over age 13 today currently have HIV. While medication can help keep HIV from becoming AIDS, one has to first know they are infected which is why it can be surprising that 156,000 of those infected with HIV don’t even know they have it. To learn more about being tested for HIV, visit the CDC’s online resource.
To learn more about what America’s biopharmaceutical research companies have done and are doing to fight HIV/AIDS, visit www.fromhopetocures.org/fighting-hiv/aids
Andrew Powaleny is Senior Director of Public Affairs at PhRMA and leads the organizations scientific communications. Before joining PhRMA in 2015, he worked in public affairs for a small firm in Washington, DC and served as Deputy Press Secretary for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Andrew came to Washington, D.C. via Connecticut with a degree from Eastern Connecticut State University where he majored in public policy and government. Andrew is active as a runner and volunteer with the DC Front Runners; most recently serving on its Board of Directors for three years as co-race director. He is also a member of the NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists and mentors students through his alumni association with The Fund for American Studies. Andrew is passionate about scientific innovation, especially for mental illness, and his heroes are the men and women of America’s biopharmaceutical research companies.