Towards HIV Eradication and Cure

PRESS RELEASE

Global Commitment Urgently Needed Towards an HIV Cure: Call for a Task Force on HIV Reservoirs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Toulon, Var, France, January 17, 2011 - Despite major advances in the treatment of HIV disease since the recognition of this pandemic, HIV/AIDS hits more than 33 millions individuals worldwide with 7,000 daily new cases of infection. The burden of treatment expense for each patient is astronomical. Universal access to HIV treatment is a red herring and is financially unsustainable. Finding a cure is the only solution to the problem that makes sense. Scientists have accomplished major advances in this direction over the last few years, but face investors disinterest and political pretence. Here, we call for the creation of a coordinated research task force for an HIV cure.

Two thirds of HIV-infected patients are living in Africa, where access to treatment is highly variable, but reaches less than 30 percent of cases.

HIV has also made a strong appearance in Asia. Prevention through education and new laws for the sex trade industry are the most common choices by the individual governments in this continent.

In Western and Central Europe, healthcare systems of each individual country are well educated and experienced in the distribution of the antiviral drugs allowing those infected to get longer and healthier lives. But the financial burden is huge. Tax collections are down because of the sluggish world economy so the cost to each individual country that provides the treatment is growing and financial difficulties emerge.

The United States has had mixed results with its HIV programs. In 2010, the government pledged to become more active in the prevention, treatment and education of the population to try and curb the spread of the disease. Regarding care, growing numbers of people are uninsured and access criteria are highly variable for those who are eligible to therapy.

The most common want for anyone and any country that is dealing with the spread of HIV is a cure for those infected or a vaccine to prevent it from spreading. As the expense of treating those infected with HIV is so huge, this fact alone makes a cure even more critical for us to find. Estimations are as high as $25,000 per year in the United States, which is more than a lot of people's yearly salaries in that country. In France, where antiretroviral access is completely covered by the public insurance, triple-drug combinations cost between 10,000 and 15,000 euros per year per patient.

The burden usually lies on the governments of each country to foot the bill for these expensive treatment drugs but unfortunately if everyone who needed treatment received it, it could cause an extreme financial strain on the country's economy, if it hasn't already. Universal access to HIV treatment is, actually, a red herring. Finding a cure to fight this horrific, life-shattering virus is the only solution to the problem that makes sense.

Fortunately, not all hope on finding a cure is scientifically lost. In fact, we are much closer today than we have ever been before. We have already made great strides in our search for a cure by a better understanding of the mechanisms involved in HIV persistence in an infected body, the so called "HIV reservoirs".

But there is minor involvement of governmental and private investors; no coordinated effort and no political will, to find an HIV cure. As scientists and doctors who have lost thousands of patients from HIV since the beginning of the epidemic, we are sick of political pretence. We need the creation of an international, multi-disciplinary agency dedicated to HIV cure research. This one must include scientists from the virology, immunology, drug development and clinical research fields with the ultimate goal of finding an HIV cure within the next decade. It is feasible, but the decisive step must be taken right now.

About us: Dr Alain Lafeuillade is chief of the department of infectious diseases at General Hospital, Toulon, France, and chair of the International Workshop on HIV Persistence, Reservoirs and Eradication Strategies since 2003. http://hiv-eradication.org

Contact: Alain Lafeuillade, MD, PhD Chief Department of Infectious Diseases, General Hospital, Toulon, France

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