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Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, May 14, 2008

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NIAID MEDIA AVAILABILITY
Dr. Anthony Fauci Reflects on 25 Years of HIV

WHAT:

On the 25th anniversary of the first scientific article linking a retrovirus to AIDS, Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, reflects in an essay in Nature on his experience treating and studying HIV/AIDS for the past quarter century. Outlining the peaks and valleys of the scientific community’s journey so far, Dr. Fauci writes, “…we must learn from our mis-steps, build on our successes in treatment and prevention, and renew our commitment to developing the truly transforming tools that will one day put this scourge behind us.”

From the outset, AIDS was clearly more menacing than any other novel disease Dr. Fauci and his colleagues had previously encountered, he writes. The period when clinicians lacked the ability to diagnose and treat AIDS was the bleakest of his career. The discovery that HIV causes AIDS stimulated a burst of progress in both the clinic and the laboratory. But the 1987 debut of the first effective drug against HIV, zidovudine (AZT), generated excessive optimism, Dr. Fauci reflects, as the virus quickly and predictably developed drug resistance.

Eight years and thousands of AIDS deaths later, protease inhibitors launched a renaissance of anti-HIV drug development in 1995. Combination therapies dramatically cut the rate of AIDS deaths in the United States—but the developing world has continued to suffer from lack of access to effective treatments for HIV. Even more sobering, Dr. Fauci writes, “Treatment alone will never end the AIDS pandemic…around three people are newly infected for every person put on therapy.”

So what options remain? Dr. Fauci praises research aimed at finding a cure for HIV/AIDS and affirms that this work must continue, but he places considerable hope and energy in preventing HIV infection, most importantly through the development of a vaccine. In retrospect, he writes, the scientific community expected to achieve an HIV vaccine unrealistically quickly. He advises that the steps we must take toward this goal now involve basic research, interdisciplinary research and active fostering of innovation, especially among young investigators. Twenty-five years since the discovery of HIV, Dr. Fauci views the prospect of ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic with cautious optimism.

ARTICLE: Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. 25 Years of HIV. Nature DOI: 10.1038/453289a (2008).
WHO: NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., is available to comment.
CONTACT: To schedule interviews, contact the NIAID Office of Communications at 301-402-1663 or niaidnews@niaid.nih.gov.

NIAID conducts and supports research—at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide—to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at www.niaid.nih.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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Last Updated May 14, 2008