On World AIDS Day, we are reminded of the significant advances that have been made – many of which occurred over the past decade – to help transform HIV/AIDS from a once acutely fatal epidemic to a chronic, manageable condition. Today, more than 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS and 35 million globally.
Unlike the early years of the AIDS crisis, HIV is no longer considered an acutely fatal illness, but rather a chronic and manageable disease. This dramatic change followed the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) in the mid-1990s, which transformed treatment leading to a nearly 87 percent decline in death rates and preventing an estimated 862,000 premature deaths.
While HAART transformed the treatment and dramatically reduced mortality for HIV patients a decade ago, treatment regimens remained complex, side effects were challenging and alternative treatment options were still very much needed for those who had developed viral resistance to available medicines. More work was needed to help ensure that not only could people with HIV live longer, but with the quality of life they deserved. America’s biopharmaceutical companies have made tremendous advances over the past 10 years to bring improved treatment options to patients in need.
In the last decade alone, 15 new medicines for HIV/AIDS were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including 3 new classes of medicine and many which combine an entire treatment regimen into a once-daily pill. Additionally, new treatments to alleviate common side effects of the disease and medications have become available.
Not only are these new medicines helping patients better manage the disease and enjoy better overall quality of life, but they continue to help drive down mortality for HIV patients. Over the past decade alone, life expectancy for people with HIV has increased by 10 years. In fact, an HIV patient diagnosed today can expect to live close to a normal life span with appropriate treatment.
Biopharmaceutical researchers and scientists are working to make new treatments available, but there has also been a significant shift to improve HIV/AIDS prevention – and efforts appear to be paying off. In fact, the annual number of new diagnoses declined by 19 percent from 2005 to 2014 in the U.S.
Additionally, biopharmaceutical companies are continuing to support research into a preventive HIV/AIDS vaccine. Currently, 33 vaccine candidates are in clinical development, offering tremendous hope for a future without HIV/AIDS.
Advances in science, with the support of America’s biopharmaceutical research companies are paving the way for better outcomes for those living with HIV. The hope of reaching an AIDS-free generation is now one step closer and PhRMA and its member companies are committed to making this dream a reality.
To learn more on how America’s biopharmaceutical research companies are fighting HIV/AIDS, visit www.fromhopetocures.org/fighting-hiv/aids.
Andrew Powaleny is Senior Director of Public Affairs at PhRMA and leads the organization's 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.