Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands seems well on its way to accomplishing its goal of zero HIV transmissions by 2026. Only nine cases of HIV were reported in Amsterdam last year, thanks to heavy investment in pre-exposure prophylactics (PrEP), a drug protocol that prevents HIV transmission, and other HIV-prevention efforts.
While scientists have announced that a half dozen people may have been cured of HIV worldwide, the process is painful and expensive. It generally requires a bone marrow transplant after a cancer diagnosis. Dutch health authorities have found a way to circumvent the curing process that prioritizes prevention rather than treatment.
Raif Derrazi has been living with HIV for more than a decade now, and he has responded to his diagnosis in a remarkable way: by remaking not just his body but his emotional life.
The Dutch AIDS Fund’s report of only nine new cases proves that the city’s investment in PrEP and other prevention strategies, which started in 2019, has had an impact. 128 people in Amsterdam were infected in 2019. PrEP can be used by people who don’t have HIV to prevent the virus from gaining hold of their immune system. When taken by people with the virus, it lowers the viral load to undetectable levels and makes it transmissible.
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Health authorities worldwide have particularly recommended the drug for gay men, sex workers, and other people who are at risk for transmission.
In addition to PrEP, health officials have collaborated with politicians and HIV-care workers to create and promote easily accessible services and programs for key at-risk populations, including men who have sex with men (MSM), people with a migration background, and people who inject drugs. Many clinics and hospitals in the city offer HIV testing and immediately provide anyone who tests positive with medication to lower viral loads to undetectable (and thus, untransmittable) levels.
According to Aidsfonds-Soa Aids Nederland, the number of new HIV infections in the city had decreased by 95% since 2010. Approximately 98% of city residents living with HIV have been diagnosed, 95% of those have received medication treatment, and 96% of those on treatment have suppressed the virus to untransmittable levels.
“After more than 40 years of working together to stop the spread of HIV, this is great news,” said Mark Vermeulen, the executive director of Aidsfonds-Soa Aids Nederland. “It really is possible to end HIV and AIDS. Amsterdam is proving to everyone that it can be done.”