A global mass-population screening programme could rid the world of the scourge of Aids within 40 years, it has been claimed.
Testing most of the world's population for HIV then treating those found to be infected would halt transmission of the virus by 2015, says South African expert Professor Brian Williams.
By 2050, when a large proportion of HIV carriers undergoing treatment will have died, the epidemic would effectively be over, he argues.
The price would be enormous, costing around f2.3bn in South Africa alone. But this would be offset by eradicating the massive disease burden of HIV/Aids, and saving the lives of productive, working-age individuals, Prof Williams believes.
He told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Diego: "The problem is we're now using HIV drugs to save people's lives; we're not using them to stop transmission."
He said the idea had growing support from other experts. Feasibility studies based on small high-risk communities were already under way in the US, Canada and sub-Saharan Africa.
Around 30 million people worldwide are infected with HIV, and the virus threatens to claim two million lives each year, he said.
Currently, the world is spending more than f21bn a year on Aids research.