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

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

Video 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

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

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