News / Africa

Scientists Aim to End HIV Epidemic

Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases speaks at the XIX International AIDS Conference, July 23, 2012, in Washington.
Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases speaks at the XIX International AIDS Conference, July 23, 2012, in Washington.

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
The HIV/AIDS epidemic is more than 30 years old. However, at the 19th International AIDS Conference Tuesday there was talk of ending the epidemic through scientific advances and public health policy.



Dr. Anthony Fauci said it was many “incremental steps” over more than 30 years that led to today’s major advances against HIV/AIDS.

“We want to get to the end of AIDS. That will only occur with some fundamental foundations. And these foundations are basic and clinical research, which will give us the tools, which will ultimately lead to interventions and then ultimately these will need to be implemented together with studies about how best to implement them,” he said.


The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said the “scientific basis” exists to “consider the feasibility and the reality of an HIV/AIDS-free generation.”

Fauci said the understanding of the HIV replication cycle is “probably the most important of the accumulation of scientific advances.” It revealed some of the virus’ vulnerabilities.

“It’s that kind of basic science which brings us to the next step. And that is the step of interventions predominantly in the arena of treatment and prevention.”

Fauci said the first antiretroviral drug, AZT, offered a “glimmer of hope.” But its effects were small and didn’t last long. Years later, two drugs were used. Better results, but still not good enough.

“Then the transforming meeting in Vancouver in 1996 with a three drug therapy. [It] brings down the virus to below detectable levels, stays there potentially indefinitely and we have a new dawn of therapeutics with HIV/AIDS that have transformed the lives of individuals,” he said.

There are now 30 drugs approved to treat HIV.

“We can’t stop there,” said Fauci, “because there are still those who are not responding to these drugs and we still need long acting drugs, particularly with regard to adherence.”

In the early days of the epidemic, half of his patients died within six to eight months of their initial visit.

“Now, if a person walks into our clinic at the NIH or any other place that has a availability of treatment – is young, 25, been recently infected – you put them on combination therapy. And you can look them in the eye and tell them it is likely, if they adhere to that regimen, that they will live an additional 50 years,” he said.

However, Fauci warned that antiretrovirals won’t do any good if people don’t know they’re infected. He said 20 percent of the more than one million people believed infected in the U.S. have never been tested. Only 30 percent are on treatment. He says what’s needed is a “care continuum.

“That is, seeking out, testing, linking to care, treating when eligible and making sure they adhere,” he said.

Recent studies have proven that antiretroviral drugs can greatly reduce transmission risk from an infected partner to an uninfected partner. And the drugs have been shown that when taken by uninfected people they can act as a prophylaxis. It’s known as Treatment as Prevention.

There have also been advances in vaccine research. The results are not good enough to produce an effective vaccine, but they’re encouraging.

Fauci said, IF we were able to plug in a vaccine block, we would surely have a very robust combination prevention package even if it wasn’t a perfect vaccine - even if it was a 90 percent or 80 percent – we could do it.”

And a cure? Scientists are working on a few possibilities, such as finding a way to eradicate the virus from the body or what Fauci calls a “functional cure.” That is, enhancing the body’s immune system to specifically deal with HIV or somehow modify cells to resist the virus. Fauci called it a “scientific challenge.” Nevertheless, he said it can be done.

“Today, in July, of 2012, the statement that we don’t have the scientific basis to implement is no longer valid. We do. That’s the point,” he said.

Fauci added it will not happen spontaneously. He says, “A lot of people, a lot of countries, a lot of regions have a lot to do."

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid