IAVI REPORT – VOL. 20, NO. 2, 2016
Next month, when thousands of HIV researchers, clinicians, and advocates descend upon Durban, South Africa, the situation will be dramatically different than it was 16 years ago. In 2000, when the International AIDS Conference was held in this coastal city, life-saving antiretroviral drugs were still not widely available in developing countries. AIDS was a death sentence in many parts of the world. But after that conference everything changed. A “movement” began, as current President of the International AIDS Society Chris Beyrer calls it. That movement has resulted in 17 million people receiving antiretroviral therapy, two million of whom were placed on treatment in 2015 alone, according to the latest statistics released recently by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). A success story, indeed.
But Beyrer warns against declaring victory too early. In this issue, I spoke with Beyrer about the successes in battling HIV/AIDS as well as the multiple challenges that still remain before the end of AIDS can realistically be achieved. Despite significant gains in providing treatment to those in need, 20 million HIV-infected people remain without access. And although in certain places HIV incidence continues to decline, based on the latest UNAIDS data there are certain regions and within certain key populations that HIV is still very much on the rise. Beyrer has spent much of his career tracking HIV in these places and within these populations and he speaks about his experiences eloquently and emphatically.
Another virus that is on the rise is the mosquito-borne dengue virus. Several factors coincided since World War II that have led to the current explosion of dengue across multiple continents. But now, after years of research and development, the first dengue vaccine is being licensed in several affected countries, and many others are in various stages of clinical testing. This offers hope that vaccines against dengue’s relative Zika virus, which is of increasing global concern these days, may also have a clear development path.
We round out this issue with a profile of Dan Barouch—one of the most prolific young HIV vaccine researchers out there. In just a short time since completing his medical and doctorate degrees, Barouch has amassed a large and varied portfolio of research projects on everything from HIV pathogenesis to vaccine and cure research. The story of Barouch’s persistence, constant experimentation, willingness to collaborate, and focus on advancing his research agenda is inspirational to anyone considering a career in AIDS research today. And we hope there are many who are considering that career, because despite tremendous gains, there is a long way to go to ending AIDS.
—Kristen Jill Kresge