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Vol. LXIII, No. 10
May 13, 2011
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Fauci To Reflect on 30 Years of HIV/AIDS

Dr. Anthony Fauci

NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci has been closely involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS since it began.

On June 5, 1981, the first published description of a mysterious illness involving five young, previously healthy gay men appeared in the CDC publication Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). The cases marked the first recognition of what is now known as AIDS, a disease that has claimed the lives of more than 30 million people worldwide since that first report 30 years ago.

NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been closely involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS since it began, will describe his personal experiences as a physician, HIV/AIDS researcher and scientific administrator at a lecture to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the MMWR report. It will take place on Tuesday, May 31, from 2 to 3 p.m. in Lipsett Amphitheater, Bldg. 10. It also will be webcast at http://videocast.nih.gov.

When the first AIDS cases appeared, Fauci headed NIAID’s Laboratory of Immunoregulation and was renowned for his work in developing therapies for inflammatory and immune-mediated diseases such as polyarteritis nodosa and Wegener’s granulomatosis. After reading a second MMWR report in July 1981 about an additional 26 cases of the mysterious disease, he recognized that these cases were more than a curiosity and made the decision to redirect his lab’s focus to studying the illness.

He admitted his first AIDS patient to the Clinical Center in January 1982. In the early years of the epidemic when effective treatment was not yet available, Fauci and his colleagues spent hours providing care to patients who, on average, lived no longer than 6 months. It soon became clear that this was not just a gay man’s disease, as new infections cropped up among different groups including injection drug users, hemophiliacs, heterosexual men and women and babies who acquired infections from their mothers during birth or breastfeeding.

In 1984, Fauci was named NIAID director but continued to lead his lab and see patients. That year also marked the first major breakthrough in AIDS research—the identification of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as the cause of AIDS. That discovery made possible the subsequent development of blood-screening tests and antiretroviral medications that have improved and lengthened the lives of millions of people worldwide.

Fauci will describe how relationships he forged with gay activists helped advance HIV treatments and led to an accelerated drug approval pathway that still exists today; his experiences with five successive White House administrations over the course of the pandemic; the advances in HIV treatment that have turned an almost certain death sentence into what is now for many a manageable chronic health condition; progress and continued research to find new ways to prevent HIV infection and, ultimately, a cure; and the challenges that remain.— Kathy Stover NIHRecord Icon


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