Times have changed. Innovation has contributed towards changing the equation: people are living longer with HIV today and the risk of HIV transmission can be reduced . Such progress ensured that HIV is now a manageable condition and no longer the death sentence it once was. Today, existing HIV treatments can reduce the viral load to undetectable levels, leading to a close to zero risk of onward transmission* (Undetectable=Untransmittable- “U=U”)1. However, new challenges have appeared related to ageing with HIV. At the same time, many of the ‘old’ HIV problems – stigma, discrimination and isolation – persist.
Gilead Sciences is working with partners to ensure policies and services keep pace with the needs of people living with HIV. Through the multistakeholder initiative HIV Outcomes2, momentum is being built to advance health-related quality of life (HRQoL) as a priority on the policy agenda.
HIV Outcomes hosted on World AIDS Day 2020 a high level conference3 focused on “Delivering Good Mental Health for People Living with HIV”. The event brought together key policymakers from Europe, along with patient advocates and representatives of global organisations, including the WHO and UNAIDS.
As people living with HIV are more likely to develop anxiety and depression4 than the general population, political action is needed to elevate mental health and wellbeing in HIV services. This was highlighted by the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, who called for a holistic approach and greater emphasis on HIV co-morbidities – including mental health.
“We have to strive for more than just the absence of death,” Commissioner Kyriakides said. “I am not satisfied with HIV patients simply living a long life. They deserve to live a fulfilling, happy life, too.” This was echoed by Members of the European Parliament, academics and national policymakers, who called for more integrated services for people with HIV and stronger measures to address stigma and discrimination in both healthcare settings and wider society.
“We need to start treating the person and not just the disease”. Watch Health Commissioner @SKyriakidesEU ???????? discuss the importance of good #mentalhealth for people living with #HIV and their quality of life. pic.twitter.com/h9m9zBJQMj
— HIV Outcomes (@HIVOutcomes) February 5, 2021
Supporting collaboration & innovation
Gilead Sciences firmly believes that partnership and stakeholder collaboration is the way forward, to end the HIV epidemic, while addressing the challenges faced by people with HIV. At Gilead, we are committed to play our part and continue innovating in HIV.
Both innovation and reimagined policies addressing the challenges faced by people living with HIV have a key role to play if, globally, we are to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goal 3 of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
* Disclaimer: While effective viral suppression with antiretroviral therapy has been proven to substantially reduce the risk of sexual transmission, a residual risk cannot be excluded. CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) states that there is effectively no risk of sexual transmission of HIV in individuals with an undetectable viral load.