UNMC HIV study deemed Science journal's scientific breakthrough of 2011The 2011 study showed that the use of a combination of antiretroviral drugs by those with HIV/AIDS could stop the transmission of the disease to others in 96 percent of cases.
University of Nebraska Medical Center physician/researcher, Susan Swindells, M.D., was a co-investigator for a study that Science, the country's leading science journal, has deemed the scientific "Breakthrough of the Year." The researchers say could lead to the end of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
The 2011 study showed that the use of a combination of antiretroviral drugs by those with HIV/AIDS could stop the transmission of the disease to others in 96 percent of cases.
"This is a game changer in that it really works," said Dr. Swindells, the Terry K. Watanabe Professor and medical director of the HIV Clinic at UNMC. "What it means is that we could potentially treat our way out of the epidemic."
The use of the medications can essentially quarantine the virus in those who already have it, Dr. Swindells said, which could halt its spread and lead to its complete eradication.
Major challenges exist, particularly when it comes to the distribution of the medications, said Dr. Swindells, who noted that nearly 40 million people are infected with HIV and less than half of them have access to the drugs.
But the therapy's effectiveness in the study has shifted the conversation about AIDS on many fronts. The study was even referenced by President Barack Obama earlier this year as he pledged more U.S. support to fight AIDS.
"To truly implement this treatment will take tremendous political will and financial support and it remains to be seen if that will manifest," Dr. Swindells said. "But if it does, it could mark the end of AIDS, and that's an amazing thought."
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