In 1988, James was diagnosed with HIV, a still relatively new disease with few treatments available. “At the time, the medication was even worse than the disease,” James painfully recalls. “All I could think of was: I'm going to be dead in six months.” Thanks to advancements in science over the decades, researchers have dramatically changed the way the disease is treated. Nearly 30 years after his diagnosis, James is living his life to the fullest.
Researchers Making An Impact
Brian is one of the thousands of HIV/AIDS scientists who has made it his life’s mission to eradicate HIV. Every day for the last 18 years, he has challenged the boundaries of medicine through groundbreaking research. It has led to advancing HIV treatments at breakneck speed. “When I entered the picture, HIV/AIDS was about bringing innovative new treatments to the patient so that they would no longer have to take 16 pills every three or four hours,” says Brian. Today, thanks in part to the work and determination of Brian and his team of 25 biopharmaceutical researchers, HIV treatment, in many cases, involves only a once-daily medication dose with significantly reduced side effects. These breakthroughs have also done more than just treat the disease. They’ve improved patient quality of life, significantly decreased death rates and increased patient life expectancy by 10 years.
A few years ago…it was all around treating the virus and stopping the disease progression for patients. Now, we’re looking for ways to reverse the disease, improve the immune system and purge the system of any remnants of the virus.
The Latest Innovations
The evolution of HIV/AIDS treatment is nothing short of remarkable. In the 1980s, HIV/AIDS was an acute fatal disease. Survival was measured in weeks and months. Today, HIV is considered a chronic, manageable condition with several once-daily treatment options thanks in part to the dedication of biopharmaceutical researchers.
The introduction of anti-retroviral therapies (ARTs) in the mid-1990s revolutionized the treatment of HIV. Prior to ARTs, doctors could only treat some of the disease symptoms rather than the underlying cause. HIV wreaks havoc on the body’s ability to fight infections by destroying immune cells. ARTs modify the disease, directly attacking the virus and preventing its reproduction. By preventing HIV from replicating, ARTs improve the immune system’s ability to fight off infections and certain HIV related cancers. This innovative breakthrough has led to an 88 percent decline in death rates and prevented an estimated 862,000 premature deaths in the U.S.
More recent discoveries continue to increase available treatment options for patients. Today there are 52 medicines and vaccines for HIV currently in development, including additional combination treatments, more effective therapies and preventative vaccines. These medicines and vaccines are either in clinical trials or awaiting review by the Food and Drug Administration. Among the treatments are 32 antiretrovirals and antivirals, 16 vaccines and four cell therapies, including a potential first-in-class medicine intended to prevent HIV from attaching to new cells and breaking through the cell membrane. This is more proof that when scientists battle against the odds, it’s a heroic win for all of us.
Together, We Will Overtake HIV
Thanks to researchers’ 30 years of progress, along with the latest innovative treatments, thousands of HIV patients like James are now living healthier, fuller lives. Although the path to creating life-extending and lifesaving treatments is a long, labor-intensive effort filled with everyday frustrations and setbacks, scientists like Brian know what is at stake: a better life for everyone. And, in light of what researchers have already accomplished, their groundbreaking work is doing exactly this—giving patients the greatest chance for survival, particularly when they need it most.
America’s biopharmaceutical companies are coming together to achieve one common goal: ending COVID-19. Our shared heritage of discovery and research allows us to respond to the coronavirus swiftly, with active trials for both treatments and vaccines already underway.