This week in Closer to the Cure: Timothy Ray Brown speaks about HIV and the doctor who cured him, Merck & Co. make HIV drugs more accessible to children in impoverished nations, new drugs found to prevent HIV, new book with AIDS’ origin, and more.
HIV Drugs Prove Promising According to Three Studies
Earlier this week, three pieces of research presented at an HIV/AIDS conference found that oral drugs were highly effective at preventing gay and bisexual men from contracting HIV. The drugs also protected heterosexual couples in which one partner was infected and the other wasn’t.
The pill known as Truvada, combines two HIV/AIDS drugs and proves to significantly reduce the risk of HIV infection in gay and bisexual men by as much as 86 percent when taken daily, according to public health researchers from the U.K. The French national HIV research agency tested an “on-demand” regimen of the same drug and found it to be just as effective when the individuals took four pills over a course of three days.
The CDC supports daily use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), but is not clear on how a true “on-demand” regimen would work for other groups at risk of contracting HIV. A demonstration project in Kenya and Uganda backed the use of PrEP treatment, confirming that providing HIV/AIDS drugs to infected heterosexuals and PrEP to their uninfected partners reduced HIV infection risk by 96 percent.
Merck Allows Less Expensive Versions of its HIV Drug to be Accessible to Children in Poor Nations
American pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. granted a free license for one of its HIV medicines to be made and sold inexpensively for use in young children in poor countries hardest stricken by the AIDS virus.
The deal announced earlier this week, allows any generic or brand name drug manufacturer to make low-cost pediatric version of Merck’s raltegravir for sale in 92 low and middle-income countries, according to the Medicines Patent Pool.
“Without antiretroviral therapy, 50 percent of infants living with HIV/AIDS will die by the age of 2, and 80 percent by the age of 5,” Dr. Deborah Birx, U.S. global AIDS coordinator, said in a statement.
Few medicines are approved for children with HIV under the age of three, but raltegravir can be taken as early as four weeks old.
According to the Patent Pool, Merck’s medicine could become an alternative to the current initial HIV treatment for children and become part of future combination therapies for them.
Timothy Brown Will Discuss HIV Cure During Free Public Forum
Timothy Brown, the first man cured of HIV, will share his story during a public forum at The Evergreen State College today.
The forum will run Friday, February 26th from 4-6 p.m. at the main library at Evergreen, 2700 Evergreen Parkway NW, Olympia. The event is free to the public and will also feature an appearance by Gero Hutter, the German doctor who treated Brown.
“People have said they had kind of given up hope, but after hearing my story, they realize they have a reason to keep on going, to keep on living,” Brown said. “I’m hoping there will be many more like me.”
The forum is sponsored by Creative Cures, a student led group that focuses on health and science careers. Evergreen student Nicholas Bense organized the event and said the issue is especially relevant for the local LGBT community.
New Book Explains How AIDS Epidemic Began
In the new book “The Chimp and the River: How AIDS Emerged from an African Rain Forest,” author David Quammen reveals scientists have found exactly when and where AIDS started.
“AIDS began with a spillover from one chimp to one human, in or near a small southeastern wedge of Cameroon, around 1908,” Quammen writes.
The most likely way it jumped species was through a person Quammen refers to as the “Cut Hunter” — a man who hunted and butchered a chimpanzee infected with simian immunodeficiency virus and was wounded in the process. The chimp’s blood mingled with his through cuts in his skin.
The book also reveals it is likely the Cut Hunter infected only one other person, and HIV likely spread on a one-to-one basis through sexual contact, working its way down the Sangha River in Cameroon to the Congo, before eventually reaching the city of Leopoldville (later Kinshasa).
Quammen suggests that no one noticed the epidemic because life expectancies at that time and place were shorter, and the infected were likely to die of other common diseases.
The “real story of AIDS” is now available in bookstores and online.
What do you think of this week’s news? Let us know in the comments.