A leading researcher has claimed that testing billions of people could eradicate HIV/AIDS within 40 years.
Dr Brian Williams of the South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis said that focus needed to shift to stopping transmission.
He told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science: "The problem is we're now using HIV drugs to save people's lives; we're not using them to stop transmission.
"Can we use anti-retroviral drugs not only to keep people alive but also to stop transmission? I believe we can. I believe we can effectively stop transmission within five years."
Dr Williams estimated that transmission of the disease could be halted by 2015 and that the epidemic could effectively be over by 2050 as most of those currently carrying the HIV virus will have died.
Anti-retroviral drugs work by lowering the viral load of the disease in a person's blood, making them less infectious. Dr Williams said that usually, when people begin treatment, they have already infected everyone they would have infected during the window between transmission and accessing medical help.
Dr Williams told the meeting that people could be tested once a year and then treated if they are found to be carrying the virus. He said that other scientists supported the idea.
Globally, 33 million people are thought to carry HIV. Twenty-five million people are thought to have died in the epidemic.
Gay men and those from sub-Saharan Africa are typically most at risk, with one in ten gay men in London thought to be living with HIV.
However, the diagnoses rates in heterosexuals are rising.
Dr Williams said that HIV/AIDS was "one of the worst plagues in human history".
He suggested that although mass screening programmes would be expensive, they would begin saving money "from day one" and he believed that people would be willing to take part.
He said: "The epidemic is killing half a million young adults every year at the prime of their life when they have started to contributed to society. The cost of that to society is enormous."
Dr Williams is setting up a key trial in his home country at Hlabisa and similar studies are being carried out in US, Canada and sub-Saharan Africa to check feasibility.
SAN DIEGO.- Investigadores estiman que podrían combatir rápidamente el virus del Sida, infección que deja 2 millones de muertos anualmente, por medio de tratamientos con antirretrovirales, según sus trabajos presentados el sábado.
"Pienso que si utilizamos los antirretrovirales eficientemente es posible frenar el contagio en cinco años", aseguró el doctor Brian Williams, un epidemiólogo del centro sudafricano de modelización epidemiológica, principal autor de este estudio.
Los antirretrovirales en el mercado son muy eficaces y producen pocos efectos secundarios, pero el problema es que "los utilizamos solamente para salvar la vida de las personas infectadas y no para frenar la pandemia", explicó en el marco del congreso anual de la Asociación estadounidense para el fomento de la ciencia (AAAS).
Tomados de manera regular, los antirretrovirales permiten reducir la concentración de virus VIH en la sangre 10.000 veces.
Esta fuerte reducción de la carga viral hace que las personas sean 20 veces menos contagiosas, lo que es suficiente para frenar la transmisión del virus, explicó este investigador.
De esta forma sería posible reducir la mortalidad cerca de 95% de aquí a 2015, lo que llevaría a una prevalencia casi nula de aquí a 2050.