In today's Washington Post
, Michael Gerson writes about the promise of the current war on AIDS: "the end of the global AIDS epidemic is suddenly, unexpectedly, within sight."
He reminds us of the many challenges to eradicating what he calls a "clever killer," including the current budget crisis, which he says has led to major competition for resources, and cultural differences that may stymie adoption of important preventive measures.
He's right on all counts, especially in his emphasis on the importance of finally beating AIDS. However, he forgot to take into account one important consideration: the commitment of the private biopharmaceutical sector toward achieving this goal.
In the 30 years in which mankind
has known about AIDS, we have made unprecedented advances in a comparatively small amount of time. It started as a death sentence without a name, and now is, to many treated patients, a controllable condition thanks to the progress made in developing treatments for the disease. What's more, those treatments haven't just become more effective, they have become more tolerable, with improved dosing and lessened side effects.
But America's biopharmaceutical research companies aren't resting
on their laurels. Research continues full-steam-ahead, with some efforts focused on finding a medicine that truly cures AIDS, and other efforts focused on a vaccine.
In a few weeks, Preet
will have our latest report on the number of medicines in development to treat HIV/AIDS and related conditions, timed to coincide with World AIDS Day. Hopefully Michael Gerson will have a chance to look at some of the numbers that Preet finds, and hopefully he'll feel as optimistic as I do.
Of course, we won't eradicate AIDS by pinning our hopes on one place. But with a combined effort of better prevention, lifestyle changes and medical progress, we may truly get there.