Fauci, Piot Discuss Progress in HIV/AIDS Treatments, PreventionNational Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci and UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot on Wednesday at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City discussed progress in HIV/AIDS treatments and prevention efforts and the future of HIV treatment, Bloomberg reports.
According to Fauci, HIV-positive people eventually might be able to stop taking drugs and live without symptoms if they are treated aggressively with newer antiretroviral drugs. Treating patients soon after they are contract HIV could protect the immune system and suppress their viral loads, allowing them to slowly stop taking the drugs.
Fauci said that he believes physicians will someday "be able to ... eradicate HIV microbiologically" in "some patients, not very many," and have a "functional cure" for others. He said such a possibility "will likely require aggressive drug regimens and rely on the timing of initiating therapy." A "cure will likely require early diagnosis and treatment," Fauci said, adding, "Studies need to be done in [the] next few years to determine if very aggressive therapy early on will allow us to get a functional cure." In addition, a vaccine that targets people with a specific genetic makeup could be available within 20 years, Fauci said. Fauci said that while research into an HIV vaccine is ongoing, researchers also are looking into using antiretrovirals to prevent HIV.
Piot said that the pharmaceutical industry needs to continue to invest in the development of new HIV treatments and look into the possibility of using existing antiretrovirals to prevent HIV transmission. "We have to make sure the drug development remains in step with the evolution of the virus and that industry continues to invest," Piot said, adding that there are "worrying signs that that isn't the case, and that is something we have to put on the table."
In addition, effective prevention methods that target men who have sex with men, commercial sex workers and injection drug users need to be scaled up to slow the spread of the virus, Piot said, adding that health workers also must learn how to target prevention messages more effectively. "No company will try to sell soap if they haven't done research for the community they are trying to sell to," Piot said, adding, "It would pay off if we could bring that experience from the business world to our amateur approaches" to HIV prevention campaigns (Pettypiece, Bloomberg, 8/6).
Kaisernetwork.org is the official webcaster of the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City. Click here to sign up for your Daily Update e-mail during the conference. A webcast on AIDS research featuring Fauci and Piot is available online. This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.