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

Video Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites 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.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid