Getting outside the HIV prevention "comfort zone"

Published: July 31, 2013

KATHMANDU, 31 July 2013 (IRIN) – Despite years of scientific advances in HIV treatment and prevention, more than two million people are newly diagnosed with HIV annually, demonstrating how community-driven approaches to prevention are still needed to curb the epidemic, experts say.

For years evidence has mounted that anti-retroviral therapy (ART) – virus-suppressing drug combinations that are the primary treatment for HIV – can also be used effectively in prevention.

However due to the complications associated with ART procurement, distribution, uptake, adherence, and potential behaviour change in patients (some studies have linked increased risk-taking behaviours in HIV patients post-treatment), a fresh local approach to implementing ART-based prevention programmes is needed, new research argues.

“Research in HIV prevention needs to get out beyond its comfort zone and meet with the people who have very different ideas about what HIV means,” Jim Pickett, the project director for Mapping Pathways, an international research and advocacy project, told IRIN.

Despite international research and policy developments that have boosted awareness and popularity of
what is known as “treatment as prevention”, local-level implementation of it remains murky and piecemeal.

“We talk a lot about the results of science and figuring out how to `make it make sense’ in local contexts. But science is itself a process that should involve communities from the very beginning,” Pickett said.

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