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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid