How to Globally Eradicate HIV

Denmark is close to eradicating HIV through a prevention approach.

A new study suggests that globally eradicating HIV is possible if countries use a strategy created by the World Health Organization and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.

According to the study, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, the HIV epidemic in Denmark has almost been eliminated through a prevention approach to the disease.

Researchers in the study analyzed data in the Danish HIV Cohort Study, which started in 1995 and tracks Danish men who have sex with men and have been diagnosed with HIV. CD4-staged Bayesian back-calculation was used to determine the amount of Danish men who have sex with men and who have become infected with HIV from 1995 to 2013.

Researchers found that the number of new infections decreased when HIV treatments were introduced to the country in 1996. The correlation between the decrease in HIV infections and the increase in treatment were found to be highly correlated, the researchers wrote.

"What we found was very exciting," said co-author Laurence Palk. "Our results show treatment as prevention has been slowly but steadily working to end the Danish epidemic."

Researchers found that in 2013, there were only approximately 600 men infected with HIV who had not been diagnosed.

"Now that the number is so low, it would be fairly easy to do a social media campaign and get these men to be tested," Palk said. "If they accepted treatment, it would essentially end this epidemic."

The researchers attributed Denmark’s success in lowering the number of infections can be attributed to the country’s universal healthcare and free treatment for people with HIV.

However, about 25 million HIV-infected people live in sub-Saharan Africa where there are fewer resources.

"Even in resource-rich countries, this would take a huge amount of money and effort," concluded Sally Blower, PhD, the study’s senior author. "The goal of elimination through treatment is aspirational, but Denmark has shown that -- at least in resource-rich countries -- it's achievable.