#AIDS2012: Revolutionized Treatment

#AIDS2012: Revolutionized Treatment

07.27.12 | By Mark Grayson

Today we have another guest post from James Sykes, Advocacy Manager for HealthHIV, an organization offering support for people living with, or at risk for, HIV/AIDS by providing education, capacity building, health services research, and advocacy to organizations, communities and professionals.

The Exhibition Hall at the XIX International AIDS Conference (IAC) is packed with representatives from virtually every organization touting advances in clinical research, capacity building, technical assistance and behavioral research. The theme of this year's conference, "Turning the Tide Together," leads me to reflect on how far we have come in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

After 31 years as a known epidemic, we no longer consider HIV a death sentence, but a treatable, chronic disease. We have evidence-based tools to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus. We have diagnostic tools like over-the-counter, rapid HIV tests. We have pre-exposure prophylaxis (PreP), post-exposure prophylaxis (PAP) and community viral load data. We have the results of several clinical trials indicating when to begin treatments. We've identified the most at-risk populations and are conceptualizing effective treatment and prevention for those communities. A conference attendee summed up all these advances with a simple tee shirt slogan, "30 years with HIV and all I get is a yearly flu shot."

Upon discovery of the virus, who could have imagined that we would someday have 35 antiretroviral drugs used to help treat the HIV infection? In many cases, we now have combination therapies allowing physicians to prescribe patients one pill a day. From the approval of the first medicine for HIV in 1987, treatment for HIV/AIDS has been revolutionized.

We must not forget how we've made such progress. With active support and investment, all 35 of the antiretrovirals used in the treatment of HIV/AIDS and the associated opportunistic infections were a product of tireless research and an unending quest for a cure.

While research, development and clinical testing for one single new drug can be very costly, where would we be if the investment had not been made to research the mechanism of viral replication? We would have more than 50,000 infections per year with no known treatment. The 500,000 lives we have lost in our country to HIV/AIDS is more than enough. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the patient community, lawmakers and the industry, we can continue our quest for the cure.

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