Researchers get one step closer to end the AIDS epidemic with a set of new tools that are designed to prevent and fight off the disease to be presented at this year’s Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston.
But over the last 20 years, medical research has produced huge advances in the fight against HIV infection. For instance, antiretroviral therapy no longer forces the patient to take dozens of pills. A single pill per day is enough. Plus, that pill doesn’t have the horrendous side-effects drugs used to have two decades ago.
Recent research has shown that HIV patients’ odds of getting better improves as therapy is taken as soon as they are diagnosed. Plus, early treatment prevents patients from spreading HIV to their healthy peers.
As of now, people that are more prone to acquire the infection such as homosexual and bisexual men can shield themselves with a preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) pill which they need to take daily. If PrEP is taken as the doctor has recommended, the risk of HIV infection drops significantly.
Though these major advances may suggest that AIDS’ days are numbered, over 1 million HIV patients worldwide die of the infection, and 1.5 million learn they have the disease each year.
Plus, in developing countries access to care for HIV patients is poor. Moreover, many patients fail to take their treatment as prescribed because they lack financial resources.
AIDS experts noted that the world is in desperate need of better prevention tools. This may be why so many people are excited over the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, which is slated to be held Feb 22-25, 2016. Experts expect new prevention tools and better vaccines to be unveiled this year.
Furthermore, a group of researchers plans to unveil the results of several clinical trials on the effectiveness of a vaginal ring imbued in an antiretroviral drug. Scientists believe that the ring is a better means of protection than the condom because women no longer need to persuade their partners to use it.
If the vaginal ring gets government approval, it could soon become a potent weapon in the fight against AIDS. Currently, the vaginal ring needs to be reinserted every month. But researchers are working on a better version that would require to be replaced every three months or so.
At the conference, researchers will discuss the advances in vaccine research, too. So far, bioengineered antibodies from patients who had the disease for years have shown promising results in animal tests.
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