A new generation of HIV drugs is so promising that researchers are
talking about eradicating the virus, an international Aids conference
will be told in Sydney next week.
The International Aids Society (IAS) conference from July 22-25 will
bring together more than 5 000 experts from around the world to hear
presentations on the cutting edge of HIV/Aids research.
Conference co-chairman David Cooper said the research ranged from
studies showing a simple measure such as male circumcision can reduce
the risk of HIV infection by up to 60 percent to details of the latest
Cooper said some of the most exciting research developments came
from a new generation of drugs called integrase inhibitors, which help
block the HI-virus infecting new cells.
Fewer side effects
Cooper said while cocktails of powerful anti-retroviral drugs had
been used to help contain the virus and prolong life for more than a
decade, the new drugs were more potent than their predecessors and had
fewer side effects.
Cooper, the director of Australia's National Centre for HIV
Epidemiology and Clinical Research, said integrase inhibitors and other
promising research avenues such as gene therapy meant eradicating HIV
was a realistic possibility.
"The integrase inhibitors are particularly potent drugs and I think
you will start to see that eradication will return to the agenda with
these new agents and new ways of using them," Cooper told reporters.
"Eradication was talked about when anti-retroviral therapies became
available in the mid-1990s but went off the agenda because of the
toxicity of the drugs - people thought it was going to take 50 years."
Back on the agenda
"Now with some of the newer drugs and newer strategies it's back on
the agenda again."
Cooper said up to 30 drugs were now available to HIV patients in the
developed world, meaning they live longer but present a challenge to
the health systems which treat them because they are more prone to
conditions such as heart disease and cancer.
He said a major topic for discussion at the conference was making
the latest drugs available in impoverished developing countries.
"In the developing world, we've only got the standard older drugs,
which are more toxic," he said.
"One of the tensions is how we get these really new medications into
the developing world."
Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy
and Infectious Diseases, said about two million people were being
treated with anti-retroviral drugs in developing nations but the aim
was quadruple that number.
Fauci said US President George W. Bush committed 30 billion dollars
to HIV/Aids treatment in the developing world last May, in what
amounted to the largest public health campaign ever undertaken.
Still much to do
"The achievements in treatment have been breathtaking, there has
been so much accomplished in the years up to 2007, but there is still
much to do - that will be the key message I'll be taking to the
conference," he told AFP.
To help ensure that anti-retroviral medicines are properly rolled
out in countries which often lack basic infrastructure, Cooper has
proposed delegates at the conference sign an initiative called the
The declaration will earmark 10 percent of HIV/Aids funding in the
developing world for research, to ensure programmes are working
"If donors can't see that there's good outcomes, that it's
effective, then unfortunately they're going to pull the plug," Cooper
said. "The only way to keep it on track is with research." – (Sapa-AFP)