HIV/AIDS Experts Call for New Ideas, Increased Funding on 25th Anniversary of Paper Identifying Virus
A novel strategy, new teams of researchers and increased funding are needed to revitalize the fight against HIV/AIDS worldwide, experts said Monday on the 25th anniversary of the release of the study that identified HIV, AFP/Google.com reports.
Experts at a review of medical progress against HIV/AIDS highlighted the successes made over the past 25 years, including the identification of HIV and the development of antiretroviral therapy in the mid-1990s. They also acknowledged "cruel setbacks" -- such as the ongoing search for a vaccine and a successful microbicide to prevent HIV among women -- which "show basic questions remain to be answered about HIV's shape-shifting properties and its stealthy invasion of immune cells," according to AFP/Google.com.
On May 20, 1983, Luc Montagnier and a team at the Pasteur Institute published a paper in the journal Science about a virus found in a person who died of AIDS-related causes. U.S. researcher Robert Gallo later showed that the same virus caused AIDS. A dispute over who first discovered the virus was settled in 1987, giving both the researchers credit.
Montagnier said, "We still don't completely understand the various forms of the virus. It's more complicated for us than we thought." Jean-Francois Delfraissy, director of the National Agency for AIDS Research in France, said, "We need to go back to the question of basic research, to have new ideas, new teams, to take a new look at cellular biology." Alice Dautry, head of the Pasteur Institute, said the next step in HIV/AIDS research should involve "a multidisciplinary approach, for looking at the problem through different eyes. When there is a problem, it has to be attacked from every direction" (AFP/Google.com, 5/19).
Daniel Halperin of the Harvard University School of Public Health said, "Intuitively, things like condom promotion and HIV testing should work anywhere." He added, "But if that were true, countries like Botswana" -- which has recorded the second highest HIV/AIDS prevalence in Africa after Swaziland -- "should have wiped out their HIV epidemic by now."
In a recent article in Science, Halperin and his co-authors said that health officials should significantly increase funding for male circumcision -- which has been shown to reduce HIV transmission among heterosexual men by up to 60% -- and for programs to promote partner reduction, the AP/International Herald Tribune reports (AP/International Herald Tribune, 5/19).
In addition, Gallo called for new approaches to vaccine development. "Some fundamental biological questions are needed (to be addressed) before some vaccines go forward, or we tend to waste money, produce a depressing atmosphere in the field and take money away from the basic science that is needed right now." He also said there is a "worrying tendency" to consider HIV/AIDS as a manageable disease in light of the availability of antiretrovirals, noting that only a small percentage of people in Africa who need such treatment actually receive it (AFP/Google.com, 5/19).