Cuban scientists see signs of the possibility of finding a definite solution to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This is the case of Dr Jorge Perez, director of the Havana-based Pedro Kouri Tropical Medicine Institute (IPK).
The doctor told PL news agency that the HIV infection may be brought to an end, but this goal requests strategies and actions including preventive, early treatment and post exposure attention. However, Dr Perez said such a goal cannot be reached with a single project or through miraculous cure, but through a group of coordinated actions, including research and the study of new drugs and treatments that help improve the quality of life of those infected with the disease.
These comments came as the Cuban expert participated in the 19th International Conference on HIV-Aids in Washington, DC, in the United States last week. The biannual conference drew 24,000 delegates from 83 countries and marked the first time the conference has been held in the United States in more than two decades.
In 2009, President Barack Obama ended a ban that prevented HIV-positive travellers from coming into the US that had been in place for 22 years. While in Washington, Perez and the head of the HIV-Aids program of the Cuban Health Ministry, Maria Lantero, attended a forum in the US House of Representatives to explain about the Cuban HIV program. The forum was organized by US lawmaker Barbara Lee, a democrat for the state of California.
In his explanation before lawmakers and scientists, Perez said that Cuban experts are currently developing two HIV-Aids vaccines, but they are faced with challenges in their research posed by the US measures prohibiting Cuba to purchase reagents produced by American companies.
As the international conference ended, organisers unveiled groundbreaking new research on the promise of early anti-retroviral (ARV) drug therapy. In a study that was released on at the conference, a group of patients in France called the Visconti Cohort started taking ARVs shortly after their infection with the HIV virus. After six years, patients stopped taking their drugs but did not experience resurgence in the virus. Even after stopping therapy, patients in the Visconti group had similar levels of HIV in their cells as a control group.
The study was conducted by the French National Agency for Research on AIDS and Viral Hepatitis (ANRS) under the direction of lead research Charline Bacchus, who presented the findings.
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