A new study has been published that suggests a strategy of universal voluntary HIV testing would reduce HIV cases in a ‘severe generalised epidemic’ from 20 per 1000 people to one per 1000 people within ten years.

The report, published in The Lancet, used mathematical models to explore the effects that testing all people aged 15 years older every year and starting them on antiretroviral therapy (ART) immediately after they were diagnosed would have on the HIV epidemic.

The strategy aims to accelerate the transition from the present endemic phase, in which most adults living with HIV are not receiving ART, to the elimination phase, in which most are on ART, to five years.

It could reduce HIV incidence and mortality to less than one case per 1000 people per year by 2016, or within 10 years of full implementation of the strategy, and reduce the prevalence of HIV to less than 1% within 50 years.

Roughly three million people worldwide were receiving ART at the end of 2007, but an estimated 6·7 million were still in need of treatment and a further 2·7 million became infected with HIV in 2007.

Scientists have estimated the theoretical strategy by 2032 would have an annual cost equal to that of the present strategy (US $1.7 billion) but that after this time the cost would decrease whilst the cost of the present strategy would increase.

They also concluded that whilst prevention efforts might reduce HIV incidence, they were unlikely to eliminate this disease.