A new report from The Boston Globe hyped up a number of advances in the fight against AIDS, while stressing the take-home thought that medical researchers need “more tools” to work with in the goal to eradicate the disease.
“It would seem that we have the tools we need to end the epidemic,” wrote Fenway Institute co-chairman and medical research director Dr. Kenneth H. Mayer on Friday. “Yet more than 1.5 million people around the globe become infected with HIV each year and another one million die of AIDS … we require better tools to fight AIDS. The need for new preventive technologies, in particular, is acute.”
While one of Mayer’s main talking points was the upcoming Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, which takes place on February 22-25 in Boston, he also cited two “emerging tools” against HIV and AIDS — easy-to-use preventative medication, and new “advances” in the field of vaccine research — and current and upcoming studies related to both new tools.
Next week’s big expo in Boston will see researchers presenting results of two major trials conducted in the Southern part of Africa, both of which testing a vaginal ring that comes with antiretroviral medication. This ring was inserted monthly in the above mentioned trials, and can potentially simplify the process of women protecting themselves from HIV, all without requiring their partners to cooperate through condom use.
“If these studies are shown to have been effective, making such rings readily available could have an enormous impact in reducing HIV transmission,” Mayer wrote, adding that second-generation rings to be used by women every three months are currently in development, and set for trials at an unspecified time in the future.
The op-ed also talked about new findings that “will inform HIV vaccine development” in future studies.
“The more we learn, the more optimistic researchers are about the feasibility of developing a safe and effective HIV vaccine,” wrote Mayer, who teased the announcement of new bioengineered antibodies that saw some encouraging results when tested on animals. One of the antibodies, which is known as VRC01, will be analyzed in two trials kicking off next month, where over 4,000 high-risk men and women in several parts of the world will be recruited for the studies.
In conclusion, Mayer believes that the end of AIDS “is possible,” though researchers need to work hard on “innovative research” to stop the disease and the HIV virus that causes it.
UPDATED 2/21/2016 – Additional comments from Dr. Mayer