This year has seen monumental advances in HIV treatment and prevention, but some health experts say the most important advance is the discovery that antiretroviral treatment cuts down infection rates by more than 95%.
It's been known since the 1990s that antiretroviral medications save lives of those with HIV. But the results of recently-published studies show HIV-positive people on proper treatment have a very small chance of infecting HIV-negative partners. The findings show that AIDS can be nearly wiped out if everyone who needs antiretroviral medication receives it and takes it as prescribed, writes Art Caplan, the director for the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, on MSNBC's Vitals page.
"A clinical trial involving AIDS this year is rightly being called by Science magazine the most important scientific breakthrough of the year," Caplan writes. "So, at last, after taking a terrible toll on us for decades, we now know how to get the HIV virus on the run. Get antiretroviral medications to all 7.6 million people who need them, continue aggressive efforts to promote the use of condoms and the avoidance of risky sexual and injection drug behavior, give out clean needles to addicts and we can have our revenge on the virus that causes AIDS."
Another huge finding of 2011 was the recent news that human trials for an HIV vaccine may begin in January.