COLLEGE PARK, GA, February 28, 2011 /24-7PressRelease/
-- Alain Lafeuillade, MD, PhD (a French doctor and researcher working on HIV for more than twenty years), has a dream: to be able one day to prescribe his patients a definite cure. However, the reality he faces is bitter: political pretense, industrial greed and a general mindset more oriented towards power than results.
Antiretroviral therapy has greatly improved life expectancy in HIV-infected patients who have access to it, but it does not eradicate the virus from the body. HIV remains in some cells. The HIV reservoirs
(located in different anatomic compartments) are able to rekindle infection when drug compliance is not optimal. Finding a HIV infection cure requires a better understanding of the mechanisms maintaining these reservoirs, plus innovation and commitment.
Apart from conducting clinical trials in his medical center, Dr Alain Lafeuillade has been at the origin of several initiatives aimed at increasing scientific collaborations on this topic around the world. First, he launched in 2003 the International Workshop on HIV Persistence, Reservoirs & Eradication Strategies that welcomes every two years over 200 scientists actively involved in HIV reservoirs research. Then, he is the Chairman of the International Symposium on HIV & Emerging Infectious Diseases (ISHEID) to be held in Marseille, France, May 23-25, 2012, with a main topic: "Searching for an HIV cure
." Finally, to promote constant scientific exchanges between professionals working on HIV reservoirs, he launched at the end of 2010 a web portal for the Research Community on HIV Reservoirs
and Eradication Strategies, which makes many connections.
As usual, Dr Alain Lafeuillade is attending this week's Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infection (CROI) held in Boston. For him, it is the best opportunity to meet and talk with other motivated scientists. But his analyses are less optimistic: although the scientific community has made great strides towards an HIV cure, political and financial interests are important snags on the road.
First, his observation is that politicians only live for short-term results and their reelection. That is why governmental agencies shy away from investing sufficient funds in HIV cure research. Then, the main interest of drug companies is to promote their current antiretroviral cocktails and make money to please their stockholders. They prefer to waste millions in marketing gimmicks rather than helping scientists. Lastly, private foundations or societies mainly fight to keep running, as they are large bureaucratic structures that need important funds for their own functioning.
"We need a radical revolution in the field," Dr Lafeuillade says. "It is our responsibility to help the millions of patients who will still die from HIV." The researcher is convinced that "doctors dealing with patients, scientists on the battle field, and activists, have to take back control of how research is funded, otherwise an HIV cure will remain a dream."
HIV Reservoirs Workshop
College Park, GA 30349 USA