PBS Program Features Discussion of HIV/AIDS
PBS' The Charlie Rose Show last week featured a discussion with David Ho -- director of Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center -- and Anthony Fauci -- director of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases -- about new approaches to curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS and the search for a vaccine. Fauci said that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is still a "great challenge" but that "the greatest advances have been made in the development of therapies which, if given appropriately to people, can really transform the lives of HIV-[positive] individuals." However, he added, "The sobering news is ... for every person who gets on therapy, you have a few more who get infected." Fauci said that prevention, especially with a vaccine, is "one of the major challenges," adding, "We've come a long way, but there is much, much more to be done."
Ho agreed with Fauci, saying that therapeutic advances have been substantial in the U.S. and other wealthy countries, making HIV/AIDS "a very manageable disease, even though we don't have a cure." He added, "But the holy grail in AIDS research is to come up with a vaccine that will work ... I think it's still a couple of years away."
The program included a further discussion about efforts to develop a vaccine, which Fauci said includes scientific obstacles that he is "cautiously optimistic" researchers will be able to move past. He also said that scientists are examining different types of approaches, including pre-exposure prophylaxis, along with preventive measures, such as male circumcision in some developing nations. According to Ho, HIV/AIDS in the U.S. in terms of treatment is "doing quite well," and the disease is "much more manageable." He continued, "In terms of prevention, I think much more could be done." Fauci emphasized that the number of new infections in the U.S., which has remained at about 56,300 annually for 10 years, is "completely unacceptable." Fauci continued that "the majority of the new infections that are being spread are being spread from someone who doesn't know that he or she is infected. And that's just something that really needs to turn around," adding that more widespread testing and identification of people who require treatment is needed.
In terms of President-elect Barack Obama's HIV/AIDS agenda, Ho said that he believes "we still have to treat [HIV/AIDS] as one of the worst plagues in human history. We can't treat our way out of this epidemic. ...We have to halt the spread of the virus." Fauci suggested that more focus on prevention and better access to treatment is needed, adding that "because of the nature of the virus, cure in the classic sense is going to be very difficult." Ho added, "For whether it is a cure for HIV or a vaccine for HIV, I think the science is not quite there. So we don't have a blueprint" (Rose, "The Charlie Rose Show," PBS, 12/30/08).