Watch: Putting patients front and center for World AIDS Day

On World AIDS Day, we unite to raise awareness, honor those we have lost and acknowledge the advancements made in combatting HIV/AIDS.

Portrait of Andrew Powaleny
Andrew PowalenyNovember 30, 2023

Watch: Putting patients front and center for World AIDS Day.

World AIDS Day, which occurs the first December each year, is a time to unite to raise awareness, honor those we have lost and acknowledge the advancements made in combatting HIV/AIDS. Since the first case of HIV/AIDS was reported in the early 1980’s, biopharmaceutical researchers and patient advocates have been focused on stopping the virus in its tracks and helping to enhance the health-related quality of life for people and communities affected by HIV.

Fast forward to the present, a diagnosis is now a manageable condition in which patients can expect to live a normal life expectancy with appropriate treatment thanks in part to the leadership of the biopharmaceutical industry.  

And the work continues. Today there are 42 treatments and vaccines in development for HIV/AIDS.

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I recently had the opportunity to sit down with the following individuals to discuss how the biopharmaceutical industry is combating HIV/AIDS:

  • Dr. Jared Baeten, Vice President of Clinical Development and HIV Franchise Head at Gilead Sciences;
  • Paul Schaper, Associate Vice President, Global Public Policy at Merck & Co. Inc.;
  • Dr. Kimberly Smith, Senior Vice President, Head of Research and Development at ViiV Healthcare, GSK’s HIV company.

Here is what you need to know:

  • The continuous introduction of new therapies has transformed the lives of millions of people affected by HIV/AIDS worldwide. The introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) in the mid-1990s marked a turning point, transforming HIV into a manageable chronic condition. Innovations such as combination drug therapies, once-daily pills and long-acting injectables have simplified regimens and improved treatment adherence. Furthermore, biomedical innovations such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) offer powerful tools for HIV prevention viral infection.

  • The biopharmaceutical industry is committed to destigmatizing HIV/AIDS. Stigma not only perpetuates discrimination against individuals living with the virus but also acts as a significant barrier to testing, treatment and prevention efforts. To address this issue, biopharmaceutical companies have taken the lead in promoting widespread education and dispelling misconceptions about HIV. These efforts emphasize that the virus is not solely associated with certain groups. Creating an inclusive and supportive environment is crucial in encouraging open dialogue, reducing fear and ultimately fostering a more compassionate and informed society in the collective effort to eradicate HIV/AIDS.

  • While advances in treatment have improved survival rates and health-related quality of life, efforts are being made to ensure equitable access worldwide. Collaborative partnerships involving governments, non-governmental organizations, biopharmaceutical companies and international agencies facilitate the sharing of resources, best practices, and expertise to reach marginalized communities and foster innovation. These partnerships have not only accelerated the development and dissemination of life-saving treatments but have also contributed to support systems for affected communities worldwide. For example, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease. As an industry, we support reauthorization of PEPFAR and the funding required to continue combatting HIV/AIDS around the globe.

A heartfelt thank you goes out to the leaders featured in the above video for generously sharing their perspectives. Most importantly, we want to express our deep gratitude to the people and communities affected by the epidemic for their unwavering bravery and resolve. 

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