Mumbai: Thirty years since the first reported case of a person infected with the HIV virus and 25 million deaths later, an AIDS-free generation still seems an audacious goal.
According to the UNAIDS, globally close to 3 million people get infected with HIV every year. So with the common goal of marking the "beginning of the end of the AIDS epidemic", close to 25,000 international HIV scientists will meet in Washington DC next week.
Happening for the first time in US in 22 years, from July 22, for 6 days the international delegation will focus on trying to get HIV infected treated early, discuss the latest in AIDS research and work towards a cure.
Dr Anthony S Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says, "We have reached that point in the epidemic where it is quite conceivable that we will be able to dramatically turn around the AIDS trajectory globally. It will not be easy but it is realistic."
But in India, 21 NGOs and 13 community-based organisations that handle 52 HIV intervention programmes, have not received central funds since April. The consequences?
Vivek Anand, CEO of NGO Humsafar, says, "People who were ex-sex workers, who have quit and come to work led to a drop in infections last year. However, lack of international funding hit the HIV intervention programme... prevention programme... and they went back as sex workers. And the irony of it is where in one hand you are managing an HIV prevention programme, where your aim is to protect people from HIV and AIDS, you do not pay them money on time and they are forced to get back as sex workers."
Experts say that a cut in funding has also affected the vaccine research programme internationally. After 100 million US dollars and 80 promising clinical trials including the massive one in Bangkok in 2010, an AIDS vaccine is still a pipe dream.
Worldwide 22 vaccine candidates are currently being tested but with no vaccine on the horizon, prevention is the key.