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

Diplomats Work to Extend Israeli-Palestinian Cease-Fire

US Secretary of State John Kerry, diplomats from France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Turkey and Qatar gathered in Paris Saturday to discuss crisis More

Photogallery US Defense Department Warns of Arms to Eastern Ukraine

‘Imminent’ delivery of Russian rocket launcher poses threat to civilians, US says More

Video Researchers: Africa Genetically Modified Crops Held Back by Scaremongering

GM crops offer best hope of increasing productivity and coping with climate change in Africa, according to co-author of Chatham House report More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid