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At Thirty Years, Distinguished Researchers Outline Critical Elements Needed to Control and End the HIV and AIDS Pandemic
ACP Offers Screening Guidelines and Useful Links to HIV and AIDS Information at www.acponline.org/pressroom/acp_hiv_resources.htm.
Philadelphia, May 31, 2011 - In an article published today in Annals of Internal Medicine, the flagship journal of the American College of Physicians (ACP), Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and Dr. Carl W. Dieffenbach Director of NIAID's Division of AIDS, outline the critical elements needed to control - and ultimately end - the HIV and AIDS pandemic. ACP created a page with links to this article and other HIV and AIDS resources and information at www.acponline.org/pressroom/acp_hiv_resources.htm.
Since it was first discovered 30 years ago, HIV has claimed more than 30 million lives. Today, more than 33 million people worldwide are living with HIV and AIDS. While medical advances have slowed the spread of the disease and lengthened life expectancies to almost normal, the authors of the article say there are still significant challenges ahead for researchers and health care professionals.
According to Drs, Fauci and Dieffenbach, future AIDS initiatives should concentrate on three essential research and implementation goals. First, research should focus on the implementation of proven HIV treatment tools such as antiretroviral therapy (ART). While very successful at prolonging health and longevity in HIV patients, ART must be currently be administered daily for life. This presents a management challenge for the health care system, as well as access and adherence issues for patients, especially those who are poor or live in developing countries.
Second, researchers should continue to focus efforts on finding a cure for AIDS that would free patients from having to undergo lifelong treatment with ART. The authors think future research should focus on both the development of approaches that would totally eradicate the virus as well as those that would result in a "functional cure" that permanently suppresses the virus without replication or lifelong ART.
Third, researchers must find a way to develop new, potent biomedical prevention therapies that can work with available prevention strategies. Drugs and drug delivery approaches that stop the spread of the virus, as well as a vaccine, need to be developed.
"By pursuing an aggressive scientific research agenda to develop the necessary interventions, we can achieve our shared, long-term goal of ultimately ending the HIV and AIDS epidemic," wrote Drs. Fauci and Deiffenbauch.
Note: In May, 2011 NIAID announced results of a clinical trial HPTN 052, which showed early treatment with ART prevented 96% of HIV transmission in a discordant couple setting. This Annals article stresses the importance of HIV treatment, and the extraordinary effect of antiviral therapy on HIV transmission seen in the NIAID-sponsored HPTN 052 study underscores the importance of this approach.