Tomorrow is the beginning of the International AIDS Conference. While the focus of the conference will be on preventing the spread of the HIV virus, a new document released this week focuses on a different approach to defeating HIV/AIDS: it's a road map for research toward a cure for HIV, featuring a strategy for global teams of scientists to explore a number of leads that might turn into a cure.
French Nobel laureate Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, co-discoverer of the HIV virus, said on Thursday "today's the first step" as he unveiled the strategy document. "No one thinks it's going to be easy", said his co-chair Dr. Steven Deeks of the University of California, San Francisco. "Some don't think it's possible".
Meanwhile, the Conference that kicks off on Sunday will bring together more than 20,000 scientists, activists and policymakers in Washington, DC, and will focus on dramatically cutting the spread of the virus, rather than curing it. One of the major goals of the Conference is finding ways to get more of the world's 34 million HIV-infected people on life-saving medications so that they stay healthier and are less likely to infect others.
But Barre-Sinoussi thinks lifelong treatment isn't the end-all solution - he believes science is showing that a cure "could be a realistic possibility". At this point, however, there are no guarantees of success, and no cost estimates for the research that will be required. Scientists who are attempting cure research met yesterday and will meet again today to compare notes.
Dr. Julio Montaner is a major advocate of the Seek and Treat for Optimal Prevention of HIV/AIDS (STOP HIV/AIDS) initiative, which utilizes HIV treatment as a strategy to prevent the disease. He was on our program earlier this year, and he shared his Defining Moment:
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