This year the Queen is not the only one celebrating a notable anniversary. In November it will be 20 years since the publication of the first ever edition of NAM’s newsletter HIV treatment update (originally called AIDS treatment update).
Thanks to the generosity of our loyal supporters we have been able to publish 212 editions of the newsletter and have distributed more than a million copies. Over the years monthly readership among people affected by HIV has reached up to 14,000, equivalent to one in five people seen for HIV care in the UK.
AIDS treatment update was the first newsletter, outside the US and Canada, to focus on HIV treatment and, as many of its long-term readers have told us, it has helped them make important decisions about their treatment that, in some cases, have proved life-saving.
Writing in the first edition the founding editor, Peter Scott, described the three aims of the newsletter as:
- To help individuals become familiar with their treatment options and be confident about their rights
- To encourage productive communication between people with HIV, doctors and the pharmaceuitcal industry
- To provide the basis for well-informed and constructive activism
These aims remain as true today as they were back then, and it is our supporters who are helping us achieve them.
One of the ways we help individuals become familiar with their treatment options is to report all the ground-breaking news from the major international HIV conferences. We were, for example, among the first HIV organisations to report the life-changing data from the 11th International AIDS Conference (IAC), in Vancouver in 1996, at which the dramatic potential of combination therapy first became clear.
Sixteen years, and eight International AIDS Conferences, later we last month provided our fullest ever coverage of an IAC, this time the 19th, held in Washington (the first time the event has been held in the United States since President Obama lifted the travel ban the US Government imposed on people with HIV). NAM was once again the official on-line scientific news reporter and our coverage reached tens of thousands of subscribers around the world.
A glance through the first edition of AIDS treatment update, from all those years ago, highlights the remarkable journey that our supporters have helped us travel over the last 20 years. One of the articles in that first edition was all about the prevention of opportunistic infections, an article which explored the meaning of the word ‘prophylaxis’.
Whilst prevention continues to be a major theme within HTU, today we most often write about prevention from a different end of the spectrum: the potential to prevent HIV transmission through the use of the very same medicines which we use to treat the disease: antiretrovirals or ARVs. This is commonly referred to as Treatment as Prevention, or TasP, and last year Science magazine considered it the ‘scientific breakthrough of 2011’.
Data now show that, if someone has achieved an undetectable viral load (one of the core goals of anti-HIV treatment), they are far less likely to transmit HIV. Studies also show that the use of ARVs prior to exposure to the virus, by those at high risk of HIV, can prevent HIV infection. This is called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and, when we use the word ‘prophylaxis’ today in HTU, more often than not it is in this context.
PrEP is one of the newer weapons in the armoury of today’s HIV prevention revolution. It is a revolution which, delegates heard in Washington, has the potential to bring about an end to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. But the challenges of implementing TasP and PrEP are vast and require huge political will, international solidarity and the participation of everyone involved in the HIV response, including people living with HIV. This is why the conference organisers chose the theme ‘Turning the Tide Together’.
Please help us play our part in Turning The Tide by disseminating the best quality information about TasP and PrEP to those who need it most, people at risk of or living with HIV, and those working to shape and deliver HIV prevention programmes. Please, if you can, make a donation today – with your help we can ensure we have the funds to continue to inform people about the critical developments in HIV over the next 20 years. Thank you.