Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Is an End to AIDS in Sight?

HIV virus attacking a cell. martynowi_cz/iStockphoto

HIV virus attacking a cell. martynowi_cz/iStockphoto

By David Harrich & Kirsten MacGregor

Gene therapy is showing promise as a way to turn HIV against itself and cure AIDS.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Los Angeles, 1986. A new virus is taking hold. It has only had a name for 3 years but its symptoms are already disturbingly familiar at emergency rooms across the USA. Young people are being struck down and fear – hysteria even – is growing in the community alongside misinformation. When I meet people and tell them where I work, they refuse to shake my hand for fear of catching the virus.

I am an enthusiastic 26-year-old research assistant in the HIV laboratory at the University of California (UCLA). I am simply grateful to put my science degree to use after several years in the job wilderness. I have no concept that I have set in motion my future PhD and life’s work, let alone been witness to the birth of a global pandemic.

Brisbane, 2013. Fast-forward 27 years and HIV/AIDS ranks as one of the biggest killers of any infectious disease. More than 35 million people have died. But, compared with the fear and hysteria of the virus’ early years, the community has a better understanding of how HIV/AIDS spreads and a more reasonable attitude towards its victims. Medical experts know how to keep patients alive for longer with an expensive cocktail of antiretroviral drugs they take for the rest of their lives – if they’re lucky enough to live in the First World.

But for many of the world’s poorest, AIDS remains a death sentence. And a cure remains elusive...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.