The Pills We Take | By David Miller
The XIX International AIDS Conference this past summer reaffirmed HIV is a disease of exceptionalism. Kay Warren said on World AIDS Day that no other disease carries the same level of stigma. Women aren’t beaten to death because they develop breast cancer and cancer centers are never targeted for vandalism. The history of the AIDS crisis is rife with events like this - irrational fears based on ignorance and cruelty.
Another aspect of the AIDS crisis that is exceptional is the phenomenal story of HIV drug development. No other disease has ever seen such an amazing series of rapid discoveries, dramatic regulatory reform by the FDA, and dynamic collaboration that has resulted in amazing breakthroughs for science in such a short period.
In the space of 30 years we’ve discovered the cause of AIDS (the HIV virus), come to an understanding of the cycle of infection viral replication, and seen drug discovery and commercialization at a pace that is completely unprecedented. There are more than 30 drugs now on the market (when used in combination referred to as Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) representing hundreds of billions of dollars in research, and for the companies who have succeeded, unprecedented financial returns on their investment.
AIDSmeds.com is a great source http://www.aidsmeds.com/list.shtml to learn about HAART if you’re just starting out learning about the AIDS crisis.
This year the University of Pennsylvania discovered a new treatment for a deadly version of leukemia based on using a crippled form of HIV to CURE cancer patients http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44090512/ns/health-cancer/t/new-leukemia-treatment-exceeds-wildest-expectations/#.UMOZNKk1alI.
At AIDS 2012, the CDC announced that 3/4 of HIV patients in the United States are unable to fully suppress the replication of HIV. Antiretroviral drugs are extremely complex, expensive and toxic. We can make HIV treatment more successful by providing food security, essential to successful HAART treatment, counseling, housing and services and support to help keep us alive while we fight AIDS, poverty, co-infections, HIV-related malignancies and depression.
While people discuss “Getting to Zero,” there are hundreds of drugs that we need RIGHT NOW to save our lives, drugs that are languishing on the shelves of small biotech companies and in universities around the world due to lack of investment. Timothy Ray Brown is living proof that bold biomedical innovation can end this plague and bring about other cures. While millions of us hold on by our fingernails to each other, to tomorrow and to faith that our leaders in Washington, the church and business will wake up, move faster and take dramatic but necessary steps, while AIDS activists spend our rent money to go to Capitol Hill fighting for the future of these drugs, the virus is mutating and the hard won gains over the past 30 years erode, as fevers steal the night, as ache replaces enthusiasm, as the virus advances.
David Miller is an AIDS treatment activist, living in the South Bronx and a member of the Cornell Adult AIDS Clinical Trials Group Community Advisory Board, The Development Director of the World AIDS Institute and writes for A&U magazine, www.HIVHAVEN.com and blogs for Living Positive. David is a long-term survivor and a veteran of ACT UP NY. David is involved with the Campaign to End AIDS and the AIDS Treatment Activist Coalition Bioship05@yahoo.com