Three decades into the AIDS epidemic, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, believes new developments point toward the eventual control and eradication of HIV.
Building on the momentum of previous findings related to the preventive benefits of male circumcision and vaginal microbicides, several new medical trials have demonstrated the proficiency of new approaches to staving off AIDS:
- Data from a 2007-09 trial published last year showed that uninfected gay men who took a combination of antiretrovirals orally reduced their risk of infection by 44 percent. That rate rose to above 70 percent when the combination was taken routinely, Fauci said.
- A trial involving heterosexual couples in which one partner was HIV-positive found that the risk of transmission was virtually eliminated when the infected partner began early treatment with antiretrovirals.
- In 2010, investigators detected two antibodies in one person that, when merged in the lab, blocked 90 percent of all known HIV strains. That information is now being used to inform vaccine research.
- A 2009 vaccine trial in Thailand with a slim 31 percent effectiveness rate was at least "proof of concept that we can do better," said Fauci. "So if we are going to have a vaccine this year or next year or the year after, we dont know, but we are certainly making considerable progress," Fauci said.
Yet despite advances in treatment and promising vaccine developments, prevention remains key, Fauci said. "The only way we can address this -- and this is the focus of what is going on over the past couple of years -- is prevention of HIV infection."
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