A Meeting of Minds on HIV/AIDS

An ounce of prevention, Benjamin Franklin famously said, is worth a pound of cure. But that is not always true when it comes to research into infectious diseases, as the fight against HIV/AIDS demonstrates.

GENEVA – An ounce of prevention, Benjamin Franklin famously said, is worth a pound of cure. But that is not always true when it comes to research into infectious diseases. Though scientists have traditionally tended to focus on either prevention or cure, defeating the HIV/AIDS virus will require researchers – and their funders – to collaborate to address the challenge from both directions.

Advances in prevention and treatment have reduced annual HIV infections by one-third over the past decade, and cut AIDS-related deaths by 30% over the past five years. Yet 35 million people still live with the virus. Last year, 2.1 million became infected, and 1.5 million died from AIDS-related causes. Even in the best-case scenario for maximizing existing prevention and treatment, at least a half-million new HIV infections would occur annually in low- and middle-income countries by 2050.

The world needs a vaccine and a cure to get ahead of the disease, and great progress is being made in both areas. But, though research in these two distinct fields is beginning to overlap, too many scientists still see themselves as being strictly on one side or the other.

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