New York Times Examines What Scientists Have Learned From AIDS Over Last 20 Years
The HIV/AIDS epidemic over the past two decades has "taught scientists not only arcane lessons about the molecules that cause illness and the molecules that can treat it, but also some basic truths about the politics, economics and psychology of health and disease," the New York Times reports in the 25th anniversary edition of the newspaper's "Science" section. Scientists studying HIV have learned more about the subtleties of cell biology and that viral infections can be treated, Dr. Robert Gallo, co-discoverer of HIV and director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, said. Scientists have also learned more about primary immune cells and the links between cancer, immunity and infection, according to Dr. Fred Valentine, a professor of medicine, infectious diseases and immunology at New York University. In addition, AIDS has taught doctors "to be suspicious of their patients' private lives, delving for intimate autobiographical details," and the disease prompted new protocols for handling blood and bodily fluids, according to the Times. AIDS was also a "prime force" in the introduction of living wills, health care proxies, do-not-resuscitate orders and hospice care, medical ethicists say, according to the Times. The disease was also the first "on record to spawn a huge, vocal, visible" patients-rights movement, prompting the FDA to create a fast-track drug approval process and making patients collaborators in their own care, the Times reports. "AIDS has taught us both the power of science and its limitations," Dr. Gerald Friedland, professor of medicine at Yale University and director of the university's AIDS program, said, adding, "It has given us incredible technologic success. But fully implementing those successes still escapes us" (Zuger, New York Times, 11/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.