AIDS Physicians Share Their Hope With NPR

AIDS Physicians Share Their Hope With NPR

06.06.11 | By Kate Connors

Unsurprisingly, coverage of the AIDS 30th anniversary has been heating up. On Friday on NPR's All Things Considered, University of Alabama-Birmingham's Dr. Michael Saag spoke about spending his entire career treating AIDS, as he began his residency in 1981.

He also speaks about how the disease has changed in recent years: "If we divide the 30 years in half - literally, 15 years - the first half was death, dying, huge stigma, isolation and, to some degree, hopelessness."

However, the second half has represented a sea change: "Through [a] remarkable investment - in particular, by the NIH and our government and pharmaceutical companies working together - within a very short period of time, the virus was discovered, drugs were identified that actually worked dramatically well, such that by 1996, we had what we now call HAART or triple drug therapy that totally transformed the face of AIDS. Such that over the last 15 years, HIV has been converted from a death sentence to a chronic manageable condition that someone diagnosed today can live a normal lifespan if they take the medicines regularly and they get the virus in check. That's remarkable."

Later in the weekend, on Sunday's Weekend Edition, early pioneers Dr. Paul Volberding and Dr. Donald Abrams spoke about what the early days of the AIDS battle were like - and how things changed in the mid-90s. Their personal experiences - and their hopes for the elusive cure - are truly inspiring.

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