HIV Progress: From Impossibility to Reality

HIV Progress: From Impossibility to Reality

12.12.12 | By Gretta Stone

I distinctly remember learning about HIV/AIDS in my high school science class in 1994. My teacher described how the virus constantly mutates and adapts to evade all treatments. Although I knew virtually nothing about drug development at the time, I thought about the impossibility of the task researchers were up against and how hopeless patients must feel. Little did I know we were just over a year away from the introduction of treatment combinations that would revolutionize the treatment of HIV, making it a chronic condition and saving millions of lives.

A new video PhRMA is releasing today reflects on this remarkable evolution in treatments, showing how these advancements impacted both patients and the entire HIV/AIDS community. I was inspired in watching it to remember just how far we've come. David Mixner, an author and HIV/AIDS activist, witnessed first-hand the devastation that the epidemic caused. In those early years he gave eulogies at nearly 100 funerals of his dear friends. Those affected by the disease felt helpless, but, gradually, new treatments began to bring some hope. In the span of just a few years, biopharmaceutical research would produce a series of treatment advances that built up over time to bring dramatic changes. Today, patients can expect to lead a long, full life with appropriate medicines.

Since the mid-1990s, the substantial progress we've made against HIV/AIDS has occurred through a series of advances that have built on each other over time. As treatment evolved, we learned more about the optimal use and value of medicines to fight the infection. As David notes, "That is the underlying principle now - the freedom to find the right combinations of promising therapies that will keep you alive until there is a cure. And even then, the cure might be in a combination of promising therapies." A recent paper from Boston Healthcare Associates illustrated this step-wise transformation in our understanding, where the value of a therapy often changes and grows over time as the research continues.

The fight against HIV/AIDS is still ongoing. Researchers are studying more than 70 potential new treatments and vaccines - to stay ahead of the ever changing virus, to potentially cure the disease, and to prevent transmission.

I'm amazed at the progress we've made over the course of the last few decades and am really glad that back in 9th grade I - like many others - underestimated the smarts and creativity of researchers in battling HIV. I look forward to seeing the progress researchers will make in the coming years.

Learn more about the continuing progress against HIV/AIDS here.

More On PhRMA — powered by PhRMApedia