DC XIX IAC: News from the International AIDS Conference

Around ASF Blog
Volume 1 / Entry 20
July 26, 2012

Hello friends,

As you may know, the 19th International AIDS Conference (IAC) is currently being held in Washington, D.C. I thought I would highlight some of the interesting news coming out of the conference this week.

Timothy Ray Brown, the “Berlin Patient” I talked about last week, announced on Tuesday a new foundation bearing his name that will support efforts to find a cure for AIDS. In his press conference Brown stated, “This foundation will support and invest in cutting-edge therapies and treatments that show promise and have the potential to lead to the end of this disease.” He continued, “If it weren’t for my own doctor in Berlin, who took a chance on an alternative therapy, I would not be standing here in front of you as living proof that there is — and could be — a cure for AIDS.”

The IAC story that has received the most traction in the press has been the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on teenage sexual activity and condom use. I have seen alternate headlines in the press for this story. Some read, “More teens using condoms over the last two decades,” while others read, “Progress on teen condom use stalls.” In reading the information on the report, both headlines are true. About 60% of teens reported using a condom during sexual activity versus 46% in 1991. However, according to the CDC, reported condom use among teens reached a high of 63% in 2003. The report also stated that teens with four or more sexual partners dropped to 15% from 19% in 1991 and the proportion of high school students who’ve had sex is 47% versus 54% in 1991. The message is getting out there, but there’s obviously still work to do.

Getting lost in the shuffle yesterday with CDC report noted above was the fact that Merck, the first drug company to show that protease inhibitors would block HIV from replicating, is working on three new HIV drugs. Two are being licensed from Chimerix and Yamasa Corporation and one is being developed at Merck. The two licensed drugs are nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors that contain faulty genetic material and, once the HIV RNA has been converted to DNA, keep the HIV DNA from being built correctly inside the host cell and therefore keep it from replicating. The new Merck-developed drug is a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor. This class of medications attach themselves to the reverse transcriptase and prevents them from converting the HIV RNA into DNA in the first place. Merck also announced they are conducting research against five different targets in the virus’ life span.

That last paragraph was a little technical but I thought it was interesting news that got buried. Even with all the great medicines we have today, drug companies are still developing new drugs against HIV. Hopefully, we won’t need them very much longer!

Thanks for reading!

Marc Montminy
Director of Communications and Public Relations


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