Dr. Françoise Barré Sinoussi Speaks about AIDS Research in Puerto Rico

Renowned French virologist Françoise Barré Sinoussi recently delivered a keynote lecture at the School of Sciences Medical (RCM) at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) addressing the achievements and challenges of HIV and AIDS.

The scientist (Nobel Prize in Medicine, 2008) underlined the importance of the Caribbean Primate Research Center located on Cayo Santiago—a small island off the coast of Puerto Rico that is home to over 800 rhesus macaques living socially—as invaluable to current research seeking a cure for HIV. [See previous post The Caribbean Primate Research Center-Cayo Santiago]. She stressed that what distinguishes the Puerto Rican Center from those in other countries is that in Cayo Santiago, the monkeys are free-ranging, as they are in Africa, making it easier “to study them and to get a better understanding of early exposure to the virus.” [As Jason G. Goldman writes, “The fact that these monkeys are able to thrive in social groups isolated from any natural predators makes them an ideal population to study, and since they are so used to humans on the island, it is relatively easy to approach and work with them.”]

But while she praised local research, Barré-Sinoussi thundered against the economic crisis that has led to the cancelation of funding for the important organization, the Global Fund to Fight HIV, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. According to the scientist, this situation could lead to a resurgence of the HIV epidemic and a setback of the scientific advances of the past 30 years.

Barré Sinoussi stated that “We must convince political leaders and public authorities that international mobilization for science-based interventions is important,” commenting not only on funding, but also on the capacity to organize an effective system for fighting the epidemic in each country. The virologist also reminded the audience that there is a commitment by the United Nations to increase the numbers of HIV patients receiving treatment to 15 million. Currently there are only 6 million being treated.

For full article (in Spanish), see http://www.elnuevodia.com/cientificacriticarecorteafondosdirigidosalvih-1136985.html

Also see article by Jason G. Goldman at http://scienceblogs.com/thoughtfulanimal/2010/08/the_origins_of_small_number_re.php

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