Post submitted by Kimberly Smith, M.D., MPH, Head of Research & Development at ViiV Healthcare
As a physician who was treating people living with HIV at the peak of the epidemic, and in my current role leading the research and development of new HIV therapies at ViiV Healthcare, I’ve seen firsthand the scientific advances that positively impact the community. There have been many new approaches to care that allow individuals to live longer and healthier lives.
As we get ready to observe the 40th anniversary of the first documented cases of AIDS on June 5, National HIV Vaccine Awareness Day is the time for us to recognize the continued innovation and dedication of the scientific community to advance breakthroughs in HIV treatment and prevention – and to keep talking about what else we need to do to end the epidemic.
I can sum up what will help get us there in two words: more options.
We’ve seen tremendous strides in the way we treat and manage HIV compared to the earliest days of the crisis, when treatment regimens consisted of multiple medicines that needed to be taken multiple times each day. Since then, we’ve evolved to once-daily oral HIV medicines, but for many individuals, daily dosing can be challenging. We must look for more options. Today, at scientific meetings we see data from clinical trials for exciting new therapies to meet the diverse needs of people living with HIV, including injections, implants and treatments to be given in combination with contraceptives. This year at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, there were more than 30 abstracts related to therapies with dosing intervals ranging from one week to one year.
The same kind of approach applies to HIV prevention. The availability of a daily pill that prevents acquisition of the virus through pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) has been a positive step towards reducing the number of new HIV cases. However, we can’t stop there. An HIV vaccine would be an incredible prevention tool in our arsenal and transformative in efforts to eradicate HIV.
After 40 years, we know there’s not just one way to treat and prevent HIV. While progress toward a safe and effective vaccine advances, and many of us focus on the goal of finding a cure, our collective scientific community must continue to push forward the development of additional treatment and prevention strategies. Let’s keep listening to what people living with HIV are telling us and work to develop what they want – more options for how and when they take their medicine.
Learn more about the Human Rights Campaign’s HIV and Health Equity work at hrc.org/HIV.