In the last quarter century, scientists have discovered many ways to battle HIV/AIDS, but now need to develop a vaccine or a cure to finish the war. With 34 million people currently infected and new cases occurring at nearly 3 million a year, the virus is still a formidable foe.
"There is no doubt a vaccine is required if we are to deal with this epidemic," Dr. Myron S. Cohen, Fogarty grantee at the University of North Carolina, said recently in an NIH Director's lecture. "Now is not the time to rest on your laurels. It's the time to really invest."
Dr. Myron S. Cohen spoke at NIH on the need
to focus on a vaccine or cure for HIV/AIDS.
Many approaches have reined in the spread of HIV. Steps to prevent mother-to-child transmission, male circumcision advocacy and safer sex education programs have all brought remarkable success, Cohen suggested. Also encouraging are the landmark treatment-as-prevention studies that proved the benefits of antiretroviral therapies for preventing transmission.
Extending the number of people tested and treated will further reduce the spread of infection, he noted. New products in development include faster assays for clinics and home screening tests. Researchers are working on new antiviral agents, as well, although developing them remains a challenge.
While progress continues on the treatment and prevention fronts, NIH researchers need to push even further to stop HIV/AIDS completely, Cohen urged. Research at the NIH toward a vaccine and cure is not "wishful thinking," he said, but holds a real possibility of success.