News / Africa

    Science: 2011 Breakthrough of the Year

    Dr. Myron Cohen, Director, Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina.
    Dr. Myron Cohen, Director, Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina.
    Joe DeCapua

    The journal Science has named an AIDS study as its 2011 Breakthrough of the Year. The clinical trial found that antiretroviral drugs can be used to dramatically lower the risk of transmitting HIV.

    The clinical trial is known as HPTN 052. It proved that giving the drugs to HIV infected people sooner made them 96 percent less likely to transmit the virus to their uninfected partners.

    The research team was led by Dr. Myron Cohen. He said while the results were announced in May, preliminary work actually began 20 years ago.

    “We had a strong suspicion based on all the biological studies we had done that when we treat people and lower the concentration of HIV in the blood and secretions, we were rendering them less contagious. But we didn’t understand the magnitude of the benefit,” he said.

    Cohen is director of the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

    “Suppose we had found that as we treat people they’re rendered 50 percent contagious. That’s a lot different than saying we’ve rendered people completely non-contagious. And so, the result, while it takes a long time, has attracted so much attention because it inspires the aspiration to aggressively prevent transmission. It blows a gigantic wind behind the idea that treatment will serve as prevention,” he said.

    Follow through

    Data from the study has already been put to use on many levels.

    “This particular 052 study in the last six months has generated policy changes at the level of the United States and the World Health Organization and UNAIDS. And it’s inspired new community-based clinical trials that are just about to be launched that apply the scientific discovery. So when you do a single study and it receives so much recognition and then seems to inform policy in a dramatic way you think, ok, this was 20 years well spent,” said Cohen.

    Those policy changes include treating HIV-infected people when their immune systems are still relatively healthy. The study also encouraged President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to say an end to HIV/AIDS is possible.

    Seize the day

    However, Cohen said the study results will be wasted unless they are linked to other aspects of HIV treatment and prevention.

    “So the 052 study kind of lends itself to understanding that if we don’t know who’s positive and negative there’s no benefit. If people aren’t linked to care, there’s no benefit. If they aren’t provided drugs, there’s no benefit. If they receive the drugs but don’t take the pills, there’s no benefit. So this cascade is now the focus of our attention,” he said.

    Cohen is well aware the study results were announced amid a global recession when many donors were reducing spending. Nevertheless, he said he remains optimistic about the future.

    “So, as the world recession goes forward, it would seem insensible to ignore this disease, just as it would be insensible to ignore tuberculosis. You either pay now or pay later,” he said.

    Praise for HPTN 052

    Among those who celebrated the study results was Mitchell Warren, head of the AIDS advocacy group AVAC.

    “Treatment is prevention. And that becomes a fundamentally different conversation because for many years debates have waged whether we should do treatment or prevention. And the results of the HPTN 052 study actually affirm once and for all that treatment is prevention,” he said.

    He said the last 12 to 18 months brought other encouraging news as well. This includes successful microbicide studies, proof that antiretroviral drugs can prevent initial HIV infection and advances in vaccine research. Warren agrees the end of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is within reach.

    “We know it’s possible, now we just need to do it,” he said.

    The HPTN 052 study was sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Director Dr. Anthony Fauci says the recognition by the journal Science is a credit to researchers and the more than 3,000 study participants.

     

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora