Tag Archives: science

Can Blood Transfusions Cure HIV?

Blood-Transfusion-2

In a different take on health and HIV related questions, Gawker reader, Michael, asks the question, “can massive blood transfusions be used to treat HIV”?

THE QUESTION:

Is it possible to cure, or at a minimum delay the effects of, HIV by simultaneously drawing infected blood and transfusing in ‘clean’ blood into the patient? You would still have tainted blood in the system, but wouldn’t this turn the clock back a bit in regard to how much of the virus is in the person’s blood stream?”

Here’s what doctors say on EXTREME blood transfusions as a fix for HIV

Dinesh Raoassistant professor, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA:

Not a bad question actually. The issue is that the virus infects T cells and these reside both in the blood and in tissues, such as the lymph nodes and the gastrointestinal tract. So even if one were to entirely rid the blood of the virus (which would be really difficult to accomplish), there would be other sites such as those I mention that would still have “reservoirs” of virus. Add to this the difficulty and potential complications of doing the blood exchange, which is done for certain other conditions… And you have a sufficiently bad benefit/harm ratio to make the procedure untenable.

Michael SaagDirector, Center for AIDS Research, University of Alabama at Birmingham:

Evidence for most infectious disorders is detected in the blood. This does not mean that the blood is the location of the infection. In the case of HIV, most / all of the virus replication occurs in lymphoid tissue (gut, spleen, lymph nodes), NOT in the bloodstream. Blood is simply a place were we can readily detect it. And while blood can transmit HIV, it is because the virus is present in blood not because it is replicating there. Therefore, removing ‘infected’ blood and replacing it with ‘clean’ is like taking a cup of water from the ocean and then pouring in a cup of fresh water in the hopes you would make the ocean a very large freshwater lake!

Michael Polesassociate professor, NYU School of Medicine:

The short answer is that it wouldn’t work. HIV is a retrovirus and, as such, integrates it’s reverse transcribed DNA into the host cell genome. That DNA will sit dormant in a lymphocyte until the cell dies. as such, there will be plenty of cells that contain HIV DNA sitting around, not just in the blood stream, but in the tissues, most notably the intestines. Even if you could replace all of the peripheral blood through transfusion, additional lymphocytes would be in the tissues and would continue to produce virus, which would just infect the cells that you have transfused in.

Patrick Fogartyassistant professor of medicine, University of Pennsylvania:

I can think of a few reasons why the approach you mentioned would not work, including that HIV infection is not a process that is confined to the intravascular space (meaning inside the blood vessels). The tissue through which the infection gained access to the body (needle stick, mucous membrane) would be contaminated with virus as would the regional lymph nodes, which drain these tissues. So exchanging the blood volume wouldn’t purge the body of the virus.

Ian Frankprofessor of medicine and Director, Clinical Core, University of Pennsylvania Centre for AIDS Research:

There is no way to delay the effects of AIDS by removing infected blood and transfusing in uninfected blood. HIV replicates predominantly in a type of lymphocyte called a CD4+ T cell, or a helper T cell. About 2% of the CD4+ T cells in our bodies are circulating in the blood. The rest are in our intestines or in lymph nodes scattered around our body. Therefore, even if we could remove all of the HIV infected lymphocytes in our blood, the vast majority of the cells infected by HIV would not be removed, and HIV would still be reproducing in those cells.

Hope that is understandable. [Ed.: lol]

THE VERDICT: No, you can’t cure (or even ameliorate) HIV/ AIDS with blood transfusions, because the virus hangs out elsewhere in the body, and would just reinfect the new blood.

Original article via Gawker

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Discussion:

Have you read any interesting articles about measures to halt, or cure HIV/AIDS.  Why do you think the answer has baffled scientists for so long.  Do you think they’ll ever be a cure, or a vaccine for HIV, and when do you think HIV will begin to become part of history, rather than a current medical condition.  Comments are open for two weeks.

You may also be interested in:

 

Anti-HIV drug effort in South Africa yields dramatic results

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An intensive campaign to combat HIV/AIDS with costly antiretroviral drugs in rural South Africa has increased life expectancy by more than 11 years and significantly reduced the risk of infection for healthy individuals, according to new research.

The two studies, published Thursday in the journal Science, come as wealthy Western nations are debating how best to stretch limited AIDS funding at a time of economic stress.

With an annual price tag of $500 to $900 per patient, antiretroviral therapy programs have stirred frequent debate. Critics argue that adherence to the drug regimen is low and social stigma prevents some from seeking care until they are very ill and have infected others. Cheaper remedies, such as condom distribution, male circumcision and behavior modification, deserve more attention and funding, they say.

The new economic analysis of a $10.8-million campaign in KwaZulu-Natal province concluded that the drug scale-up there had been highly cost-effective.

The program was administered by nurses in rural health clinics in an impoverished region of about 100,000 people. Treatment consisted primarily of daily doses of antiretroviral therapy, or ART, drugs, which patients take every day for their entire lives. Patients picked up their medication at a rural clinic once a month.

In 2003, the year before the drugs were available, 29% of all residents were infected with HIV and half of all deaths there were caused by AIDS. Life expectancy in the region was just over 49 years.

By 2011, life expectancy had grown to 60 1/2 years — “the most rapid life expectancy gains observed in the history of public health,” said study senior author Till Barnighausen, a global health professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Based on that increase in longevity, researchers determined just how many years of life were effectively “gained” among residents as a result of ART intervention. They used that figure and the total expense of the program to calculate a cost-effectiveness ratio of $1,593 per life-year saved.

The World Health Organization considers medical intervention to be “highly cost-effective” if the cost per year of life saved is less than a nation’s per capita gross domestic product. The program’s ratio was well below South Africa’s 2011 per capita GDP of about $11,000.

“It’s really a slam dunk of an intervention,” said study leader Jacob Bor, a graduate student at Harvard. “These investments are worthwhile.”

The research team noted that the study period coincided with the arrival of electric power and clean water for area residents. But those alone could not explain the dramatic increase in longevity, they said.

“While mortality due to HIV declined precipitously, mortality due to other causes flat-lined,” Bor said. “These changes were almost certainly due to ART scale-up.”

In a second study from the same region, researchers followed nearly 17,000 healthy people from 2004 to 2011 to determine HIV infection rates in areas with active ART intervention programs.

Healthy individuals in those areas were 38% less likely to contract HIV than people in areas where ART drugs were not widely available, researchers found. People in extremely rural areas also fared better than those in more closely populated areas clustered around national roads.

Overall HIV prevalence increased 6% during the seven years of the study, probably because the antiretroviral drugs allowed people with the virus to live longer, according to the report.

It’s not clear how the results of the new study would translate to areas where stable, cohabiting couples were not the norm, said lead author Frank Tanser, an epidemiologist at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

AIDS researchers who weren’t involved in the studies said they provide strong support for maintaining programs like the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, begun by President George W. Bush in 2003.

“These papers present truly remarkable data,” said Dr. Douglas Richman, director of the Center for AIDS Research at UC San Diego.

Original article via Gawker

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A Cure for HIV/AIDS Has Got a Step Closer!

Listen to this article instead [audio http://www.lass.org.uk/files/uploads/120802.mp3]

HIV is an exceptional adversary. It is more diverse than any other virus, and it attacks the very immune cells that are meant to destroy it. If that wasn’t bad enough, it also has a stealth mode. The virus can smuggle its genes into those of long-lived white blood cells, and lie dormant for years. This “latent” form doesn’t cause disease, but it’s also invisible to the immune system and to anti-HIV drugs.

When the virus awakens, it can trigger new bouts of infection – a risk that forces HIV patients to stay on treatments for life. It’s clear that if we’re going to cure HIV for good, we need some way of rousing these dormant viruses from their rest and eliminating them.

Now, a cure for HIV/AIDS has got a step closer after scientists found that a common cancer drug can purge the disease as it lies dormant in the body.  Current treatments are effective at reducing levels of the disease in the bloodstream – but a drug that can ‘knock out’ the disease when it lies dormant is thought to be key to a cure.

A team of US scientists led by David Margolis has found that vorinostat – a drug used to treat lymphoma – can do exactly that. It shocks HIV out of hiding. While other chemicals have disrupted dormant HIV within cells in a dish, this is the first time that any substance has done the same thing in actual people.

At this stage, Margolis’s study just proves the concept – it shows that disrupting HIV’s dormancy is possible, but not what happens afterwards. The idea is that the awakened viruses would either kill the cell, or alert the immune system to do the job. Drugs could then stop the fresh viruses from infecting healthy cells. If all the hidden viruses could be activated, it should be possible to completely drain the reservoir. For now, that’s still a very big if, but Margolis’s study is a step in the right direction.

HIV enters its dormant state by convincing our cells to hide its genes. It recruits an enzyme called histone deacetylase (HDAC), which ensures that its genes are tightly wrapped and cannot be activated. Vorinostat, however, is an HDAC inhibitor – it stops the enzyme from doing its job, and opens up the genes that it hides.

It had already proven its worth against HIV in the lab. Back in 2009, three groups of scientists(including Margolis’ team) showed that vorinostat could shock HIV out of cultured cells, producing detectable levels of viruses when they weren’t any before.

To see if the drug could do the same for patients, the team extracted white blood cells from 16 people with HIV, purified the “resting CD4 T-cells” that the virus hides in, and exposed them to vorinostat. Eleven of the patients showed higher levels of HIV RNA (the DNA-like molecule that encodes HIV’s genes) – a sign that the virus had woken up.

Eight of these patients agreed to take part in the next phase. Margolis gave them a low 200 milligram dose of vorinostat to check that they could tolerate it, followed by a higher 400 milligram dose a few weeks later. Within just six hours, he found that the level of viral RNA in their T-cells had gone up by almost 5 times.

These results are enough to raise a smile, if not an outright cheer. We still don’t know how extensively vorinostat can smoke HIV out of hiding, or what happens to the infected cells once this happens. At the doses used in the study, the amount of RNA might have gone up, but the number of actual viral particles in the patients’ blood did not. It’s unlikely that the drug made much of a dent on the reservoir of hidden viruses, so what dose should we use, and over what time?

Vorinostat’s actions were also very varied. It did nothing for 5 of the original 16 patients. For the 8 who actually got the drug, some produced 10 times as much viral RNA, while others had just 1.5 times more. And as you might expect, vorinostat comes with a host of side effects, and there are concerns that it could damage DNA. This study could be a jumping point for creating safer versions of the drug that are specifically designed to awaken latent HIV, but even then, you would still be trying to use potentially toxic drugs to cure a long-term disease that isn’t currently showing its face. The ethics of doing that aren’t clear.

Steven Deeks, a HIV researcher from the University of California San Francisco, talks about these problems and more in an editorial that accompanies the new paper. But he also says that the importance of the study “cannot be over­stated, as it provides a rationale for an entirely new approach to the management of HIV infection”.

Progress is being made every day, don’t believe us? – Check out the related articles below!

Original Articles via Discover Magazine and Mail Online

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Together We Will End AIDS

Entitled Together we will end AIDS, the new UNAIDS report contains the latest data on numbers of new HIV infections, numbers of people receiving antiretroviral treatment, AIDS-related deaths and HIV among children. It highlights new scientific opportunities and social progress which are bringing the world closer to UNAIDS vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.

The report also gives an overview of international and domestic HIV investments and the need for greater value for money and sustainability.

Calling for global solidarity and shared responsibility, the UNAIDS report contains commentaries from global and community leaders as well as people living with and affected by HIV.

Download here

Link to UNAIDS Campaign 

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Even without a cure, the end of the AIDS pandemic is in sight

A very bold statement to make in the run up to AIDS 2012, none the less, this is the view of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases (NIAID )

NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci addressing the United Nations General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS on 10June 2008.

Dr. Fauci was appointed Director of NIAID in 1984. He oversees an extensive research portfolio of basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose, and treat infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, influenza, tuberculosis, malaria and illness from potential agents of bioterrorism. NIAID also supports research on transplantation and immune-related illnesses, including autoimmune disorders, asthma and allergies.  Dr. Fauci serves as one of the key advisors to the White House and Department of Health and Human Services on global AIDS issues, and on initiatives to bolster medical and public health preparedness against emerging infectious disease threats such as pandemic influenza.

Dr. Fauci has made many contributions to basic and clinical research on the pathogenesis and treatment of immune-mediated and infectious diseases. He has pioneered the field of human immunoregulation by making a number of basic scientific observations that serve as the basis for current understanding of the regulation of the human immune response. In addition, Dr. Fauci is widely recognized for delineating the precise mechanisms whereby immunosuppressive agents modulate the human immune response. He has developed effective therapies for formerly fatal inflammatory and immune-mediated diseases such as polyarteritis nodosa, Wegener’s granulomatosis, and lymphomatoid granulomatosis. A 1985 Stanford University Arthritis Center Survey of the American Rheumatism Association membership ranked the work of Dr. Fauci on the treatment of polyarteritis nodosa and Wegener’s granulomatosis as one of the most important advances in patient management in rheumatology over the previous 20 years.

AN END TO NEW INFECTIONS?

Three decades into the AIDS pandemic an end to new infections is in sight, according to Dr. Fauci.

“We don’t even know if a cure is possible. What we know is it is possible that we can end this pandemic even without a cure,”

Fauci told AFP in an interview ahead of the International AIDS conference 22nd -27th July in Washington DC, America.

Some 34 million people around the world are living with human immunodeficiency virus, which has killed 25 million since it first emerged in the 1980s.

The theme of this conference, which is held every two years, is “Turning the Tide Together,” and is based on experts sharing knowledge of the latest advances and how to best implement them in order to halt new cases of HIV/AIDS.

“We have good and effective treatments but we have to keep people on the treatments indefinitely in order to keep them well,” said Dr. Fauci, referring to antiretroviral drugs which have transformed a deadly disease into a manageable condition.

“When you have a very marked diminution of the number of new infections then you reach what we call and AIDS-free generation.”

Dr. Fauci said he did not expect any staggering breakthroughs to be announced at the conference, but that the gain would come though collaborating on ideas to speed progress by using the tools that practitioners have already at hand.

Otherwise, if progress continues at the present rate of reducing new infections worldwide by about 1.5 percent per year, the goal becomes too distant, he said.

Recent studies that tested antiretroviral drugs in healthy people as a way to prevent getting HIV through sex with infected partners have shown some promise, though getting people to take their medication daily had proven a challenge.

“The important thing is you have to take your medication,” Fauci said, noting that average HIV risk reduction in a study of men who have sex with men was just 44 percent.

The approach of treating healthy people with antiretrovirals is known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, and “is not for everyone,” Fauci said. “We have to selectively use it.”

The US Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved the first pill for HIV prevention, Truvada, despite concerns by some in the health care community that it could encourage drug resistance and risky sex.

Novel ways to boost testing are also good news, particularly with the recent US approval of the first at-home HIV test.

“It is so important in the quest to ending the AIDS pandemic to get as many people tested as possible. You can link them to care and get them on treatment. Anything that makes that goal easier would be an important advance.”

As far as an AIDS vaccine, Fauci said researchers have made “good progress” but “still have a long way to go.”

Experts are examining a trial done in Thailand that showed in 2009 modest efficacy of just over 30 percent, but is still considered a breakthrough and offers clues for future study into why some were helped and others were not.

Dr. Fauci also said he did not expect much concern to be raised over upcoming reports of the extent of drug resistance to antiretrovirals.

“People may think I am taking it lightly but quite frankly it is not a serious problem,” Fauci said.

He added that overall, AIDS research is “going well” even though “funding is restricted right now.”

And he expressed pride in the United States’ President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), “which has really transformed how you can get people in low income countries to get on treatment care and prevention.”

The United States provides almost half the world’s funding for international HIV assistance, according to UNAIDS.

The International AIDS Conference is returning to the United States after more than two decades away due to a ban on travel and immigration by people with HIV that was lifted in 2008 and signed into law in 2009.

Fauci called those restrictive laws “unfortunate” and “embarrassing.”

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HIV treatment breaks lead to drug resistance in the female genital tract

Antiretroviral treatment interruptions of 48 hours or more are associated with the emergence of resistant strains of HIV in the female genital tract, investigators report in the online edition of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.

The study included 102 women in Kenya who started first-line antiretroviral therapy based on a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI). Drug-resistant virus was detected in the genital tract of five women in the twelve months after treatment was started. Treatment interruptions were the most important risk factor for this outcome.

“We found that ART [antiretroviral therapy] adherence was a key determinant of genital tract resistance and that treatment interruptions of whatever cause lead to a substantial increase in the hazard of detecting genotypic resistance to antiretrovirals in female genital tract secretions,” write the authors. “Efforts to prevent treatment interruptions by improving program effectiveness, promoting adherence and timely refills, and avoiding the use of more toxic antiretroviral agents could therefore play an important role in reducing transmitted drug resistance.”

First-line HIV therapy often comprises two nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) combined with an NNRTI. This treatment can have a powerful and durable anti-HIV effect. However, it requires high levels of adherence. Drug-resistant strains of HIV can emerge with poorer adherence. Older drugs in the NNRTI class, nevirapine (Viramune) and efavirenz (Sustiva or Stocrin), have a low barrier to resistance.

Little is currently known about the emergence of drug-resistant virus in the genital tract of women treated with NNRTI-based therapy. This is an important gap in knowledge as drug-resistant virus is potentially transmissible.

Investigators therefore designed a prospective study involving women who started first-line HIV treatment in Mombasa between 2005 and 2008. During the first twelve months after starting therapy viral load was monitored at three-monthly intervals in both plasma and the genital tract. Samples with viral load above 1000 copies/ml were sent for resistance testing. The investigators conducted analysis to see which factors were associated with the emergence of drug-resistant virus in the genital tract.

Overall, the women had high levels of adherence to their antiretroviral therapy. Assessed by pill count, median adherence was 97%. However, there were 40 treatment interruptions. Their median duration was four days. Median pill-count adherence following treatment interruptions was just 83%.

Drug-resistant virus was detected in the blood of nine women (incidence, 10 per 100 person-years) and in the genital secretions of five individuals (incidence, 5.5 per 100 person-years). All five women with resistant HIV in their genital secretions also had resistant virus in their blood.

The investigators’ first set of analysis showed that a number of factors were associated with genital tract resistance. These included treatment interruptions (p = 0.006), pill-count adherence (p = 0.001) and a higher baseline viral load (p = 0.04).

But only treatment interruptions remained significant after controlling for potentially confounding factors. Interruptions were associated with a more than 14-fold increase in the risk of genital tract resistance (aHR = 14.2; 95% CI, 1.3-158.4; p = 0.03).

“The reasons for treatment interruption in this study included both unavoidable discontinuations due to drug toxicity or systemic illness and avoidable interruptions due to late refills, when it is likely that consecutive doses were missed,” note the investigators. “Despite a comprehensive program of adherence support including pre-ART counseling, directly administered therapy during the first month of treatment, a support group, pill boxes and transportation reimbursements, we were unable to prevent these events.”

Transport problems and pharmacy stock-outs have emerged as major barriers to adherence in resource-limited settings. The investigators are concerned that “such barriers may lead to the development of genital tract resistance due to treatment interruptions, suggesting an increased risk for transmission of drug-resistant virus”.

The Aids Library of Philadelphia FIGHT has a video on YouTube which explore the subject of HIV which is resistant to anti-HIV medications. Further information can be found on their website.

Original Article via NAM and Philadelphia Fight’s YouTube Channel

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A History of HIV & AIDS – 1996

As we prepare to enter our 25th year, we are reflecting on the global HIV events from the last three decades.  HIV has swept across the globe touching communities on every continent.  Here’s an introduction to some of the key moments in the early global history of HIV.  Catch up on the story using the ‘Recent Posts’ link to the right.

UNAIDS and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated in 1996 that more than 4.6 million people had died from AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic and that over 20.1 million were then living with the virus that leads to AIDS. The majority of those infected (over 15 million) lived in sub-Saharan Africa, followed by more than 31.8 million in Asia, 1 million in Latin America and the Caribbean and about 1.5 million in North America and Western and Central Europe.

On 1 January 1996, The UN aids agency, UNAids, is established.  UNAids – the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS opened for business. This was 15 years after the first published report of AIDS cases, 15 years during which most of the world’s leaders, in all sectors of society, had displayed a staggering indifference to the growing challenge of this new epidemic.

Tommy Morrison in February, 2007

In February, the heavyweight boxer Tommy Morrison was identified as HIV positive after being tested prior to a fight.  A few days before a scheduled fight against Arthur Weathers, Morrison tested positive on a mandatory HIV test performed by the Nevada Athletic Commission.  Morrison’s personal physician administered a confirmatory test, which was also positive.  Nevada cancelled the fight and placed Morrison on indefinite suspension.

At a news conference, a “reflective” Morrison said that he had contracted HIV because of a “very permissive, fast, reckless lifestyle’ that involved unprotected sex with multiple partners.”  Morrison also said that he once thought HIV was a danger only to drug addicts and homosexuals, but that his infection was evidence that HIV “does not discriminate.”  Morrison stated that he would never fight again but later in 1996, he announced that he wished to make a comeback with one more bout, the proceeds of which would benefit his newly created KnockOut Aids Foundation.

To treat his HIV infection, Morrison told the New York Daily News in 2001, he took antiretroviral medication, which reduced his viral load to low levels and according to his promoter, saved his life.

Beginning in 2006, Morrison launched a comeback bid, alleging that his positive HIV tests had been false positives or that he was a victim of a plot by a rival boxer.  The Nevada boxing commission’s medical advisory board reviewed Morrison’s status and concluded that the HIV positive results were “ironclad and unequivocal.”  The commission’s Keith Kizer stated, “I hope he’s HIV negative, I really do, but it doesn’t seem likely…We’ll wait and see what happens. He said he’s been tested several times in recent years, but (we’ll ask) what happened from 1996 and 2002, the years he won’t talk about.”  Morrison said he tried to get a copy of the original test results. “We’ve asked, but they can’t come up with it,” he said. “I don’t think it ever existed.”  USA Today reported that “Goodman said that’s nonsense: ‘All Mr. Morrison has to do is contact the laboratory, and they would immediately release the results to him.’

It’s very interesting reading, for more on Tommy Morrison, follow these links:

In May the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first ‘home sampling’ system of HIV testing.

Meanwhile in China it was estimated that the number of AIDS cases could be as high as 100,000. Two thirds of the reported AIDS cases had occurred in the southern province of Yunnan, where the use of heroin and the sharing of needles had helped the spread of HIV.

In the USA there had been a cumulative total of 81,500 AIDS cases in New York.

New outbreaks of HIV infection were erupting in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, China and elsewhere.

The International Aids Vaccine Initiative set up to jumpstart the search for an effective vaccine.

BREAKTHROUGH IN HIV / AIDS TREATMENT

The first major breakthrough in the treatment of HIV comes in 1996, with the introduction of protease inhibitors as part of antiretroviral combination therapies.

Protease Inhibitors stop HIV replication by preventing the enzyme protease from cutting the virus into the shorter pieces that it needs to make copies of itself. Incomplete, defective copies are formed which can’t infect cells.

This new class of medicine means that viral loads drop, t-cells rise, and death rates plummet, even as it becomes clear that the new medications cannot “eradicate” HIV from the body and thus fall short of being a cure.  Alongside these tremendous advances, new HIV infections remain undiminished, and the drugs also prove difficult to take, cause serious side effects, and don’t work for everyone.

Robert Gallo, an American biomedical researcher, best known for his role in the discovery of HIV published his discovery that chemokines, a class of naturally occurring compounds, can block HIV and halt the progression of AIDS. This was heralded by Sciencemagazine as one of the top scientific breakthroughs within the same year of his publication.  The role chemokines play in controlling the progression of HIV infection has influenced thinking on how AIDS works against the human immune system and led to a class of drugs used to treat HIV, the chemokine antagonists or entry inhibitors.

Gallo’s team at the Institute of Human Virology maintain an ongoing program of scientific research and clinical care and treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS, treating more than 4,000 patients in Baltimore and 200,000 patients at institute-supported clinics in Africa and the Caribbean.  In July 2007, Gallo and his team were awarded a $15 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for research into a preventive vaccine for HIV/AIDS.


Just 12 months earlier, AIDS was considered a death sentence, and those seeking to treat it seldom uttered the words “AIDS” and “hope” in the same sentence.  However, in 1996 those terms have become inextricably linked in the minds and hearts of researchers and patients alike and while the new optimism must be tempered with numerous caveats, 1996 had ushered in a series of stunning breakthroughs, both in AIDS treatment and in basic research on HIV.

Protease inhibitors can now dramatically reduce HIV levels in the blood when taken with other antiviral compounds. At the same time, natural weapons in the immune system’s defences, polypeptide molecules called chemokine’s, have been unveiled as potent foes of HIV. This work offered new insight into the pathogenesis of HIV and may one day blossom into new treatments or even vaccines.

Read This: AIDS Research: New Hope in HIV Disease

These major breakthroughs resulted in a steep decline in the number of AIDS cases and deaths reported each year which gave hope to the many millions of people with HIV.  Less and less people with HIV were dying however, the number of infections continues to rise, and peaks at a new high from 2000, due in part to living healthy with HIV but also due to decreased education and awareness.

At the 11th International Aids Conference in Vancouver, excitement over the development of combination drug therapies is tempered by their extreme cost – estimated at $20,000 a year per patient.

Brazil introduces free combination therapy for HIV-positive citizens

At the end of the year UNAIDS estimated that during 1996 some three million people, mostly under the age of 25, had become newly infected with HIV, bringing to nearly 23 million the total number of infected people. In addition an estimated 6.4 million people – 5 million adults and 1.4 million children – had already died.

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