Modelling the impact of antiretroviral therapy on the epidemic of HIV

Curr HIV Res. 2011 Sep;9(6):367-82. doi: 10.2174/157016211798038533.


Thirty years after HIV first appeared it has killed close to 30 million people but transmission continues unchecked. In 2009, an estimated 1.8 million lives were lost and 2.6 million more people were infected with HIV [1]. To cut transmission, many social, behavioural and biomedical interventions have been developed, tested and tried but have had little impact on the epidemic in most countries. One substantial success has been the development of combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) that reduces viral load and restores immune function. This raises the possibility of using ART not only to treat people but also to prevent new HIV infections. Here we consider the impact of ART on the transmission of HIV and show how it could help to control the epidemic. Much needs to be known and understood concerning the impact of early treatment with ART on the prognosis for individual patients and on transmission. We review the current literature on factors associated with modelling treatment for prevention and illustrate the potential impact using existing models. We focus on generalized epidemics in sub- Saharan Africa, with an emphasis on South Africa, where transmission is mainly heterosexual and which account for an estimated 17% of all people living with HIV. We also make reference to epidemics among men who have sex with men and injection drug users where appropriate. We discuss ways in which using treatment as prevention can be taken forward knowing that this can only be the beginning of what must become an inclusive dialogue among all of those concerned to stop acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa South of the Sahara / epidemiology
  • Anti-HIV Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active*
  • Epidemics
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • Humans
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical / prevention & control
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Viral / prevention & control


  • Anti-HIV Agents