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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened 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.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid