Taking On AIDS

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Monday, July 23, 2012 - 2:31pm

Experts meet in Washington to discuss latest advancements in fight against HIV/AIDS.

The world's leading HIV and AIDS researchers have gathered in the nation's capitol for the first time in 22 years.

They're using words many never thought possible, including "cure", and the very real possibility of an "AIDS-free generation."

Scientific advances in HIV research in recent years have led the nation to a game-changing moment in the fight against AIDS.

"We can start to begin to end the AIDS epidemic. Most people don't know that," says Dr. Diane Havlir of the University of California, San Francisco.

That belief is shared by many of the estimated 25,000 doctors and activists in washington, D.C.. This week for the international aids conference.

Dr. Myron Cohen of the University of North Carolina led groundbreaking research last year that found treating HIV-infected people with anti-retroviral drugs as soon as they're diagnosed reduces the likelihood by 96-percent they'll pass the virus to uninfected partners.

"So if you treated a person, you rendered them no longer contagious," he explains.

Along with condom usage, drugs may also prevent people from becoming infected in the first place.

Truvada was recently approved for people who are at high risk for acquiring HIV.

"There's a great deal of hope and optimism, but we're cautious," Dr. Havlir says.

Still, the rate of HIV infection is skyrocketing among young African American gay men.

Poverty and poor self-esteem are major reasons many of these men don't insist on using condoms,
don't get tested, and don't get treated.

"Every day we hear their experiences of homophobia, of racism, of the things that just tear at their being," says the Justice Resource Institute's Douglas Brooks.

Sir Elton John, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Bill Gates also spoke at the AIDS conference.

During the conference Secretary Clinton pledged an extra $150-million in AIDS research and prevention, including a plan to reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission by getting treatment to pregnant and nursing mothers.

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