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A Global Call to Action From HIV Co-Discoverers Robert Gallo and Luc Montagnier

Friday, May 08, 2009

 Dr. Robert Gallo (right) and Dr. Luc Montagnier held a press conference to encourage continued support for HIV research, 25 years after the two discovered the virus.

Researchers say HIV/AIDS Remains the Number One Global Health Threat

HIV co-discoverers Drs. Robert C. Gallo, director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and Luc A. Montagnier, president of the World Foundation for Medical Research and Prevention, held a join press conference to call on international organizations and governments to immediately implement six objectives to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic. They made the announcement at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.  Also speaking at the conference was Jeffrey S. Crowley, Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy.

"HIV and AIDS remain an unparalleled global health threat, and despite progress in treatment, could worsen unless determined action is taken," said Drs. Gallo and Montagnier. Hoping to take action against that, "we believe the recommendations we are making today will be key to reducing and ultimately minimizing the devastation of HIV and AIDS," said Drs. Gallo and Montagnier.

Global Call to Action:

  1. Invest in medical infrastructure and educational outreach programs in U.S. communities most affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic
  2. Promote global development of HIV/AIDS treatment and control programs along with regional research institutions in developing countries
  3. Cultivate and inspire young scientists in the field of human virology
  4. Enhance HIV/AIDS education and prevention, especially in countries with high infection rates
  5. Support cutting-edge vaccine research and the development of new effective therapies
  6. Continue the focus on preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission

“Here we are, 25 years after discovering the cause of AIDS and we still have a major, public health HIV/AIDS crisis,” said Dr. Gallo. “Never in the history of mankind have we so quickly identified the cause of an epidemic, developed a test for it and begun to develop drug therapy, changing a once-deadly virus to a lifelong condition with proper medical intervention. It is important for governments and organizations from around the world to come together and combat this collective HIV/AIDS emergency.”

“President Obama is fully committed to the worldwide effort to combat HIV/AIDS, and is equally committed to the effort here at home, where we are facing a serious challenge, said Crowley. "With more than 56,000 new infections each year and more than 1.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States, we continue to have a very serious domestic epidemic. As part of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy development process, we will be developing strategies to lower HIV incidence, get all people living with HIV/AIDS into care, and address health disparities,” he vowed.

Dr. Gallo encouraged the media not to be so distracted by swine flu and natural disasters that they lose sight of the devastation HIV/AIDS is still causing. "Let's not forget that we have a known, deadly epidemic still going on," he said. "As one of my colleagues at the Institute of Human Virology pointed out, the tsunami killed about 175,000 people. Almost that many die every month from HIV and AIDs. Keep that in mind, that this is still killing a lot of people."

“Despite many advances in HIV research from the virus discovery to the antiretroviral therapy, the AIDS epidemic is still spreading and remains a major health problem in many countries,” said Dr. Montagnier.  “It is therefore of utmost importance to continue the research to find new ways of treatment and prevention for eradicating the virus infection.”

This global action coincides with the publishing of Dr. Gallo and his colleagues’ four key groundbreaking articles in Science magazine on May 4, 1984 Vol 224 (#4648). These four papers proved how the then-new, deadly virus was the cause of AIDS. This significant global contribution lead to the development of the HIV blood test, thereby diagnosing individuals and helping to control the pandemic, while paving the way for drug and vaccine research initiated at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). These reports followed publication by Dr. Montagnier and his co-workers, who showed the first existence of this new retrovirus and subsequently contributed to demonstrating its causative role in AIDS.”

Drs. Gallo and Montagnier are participating in a symposium, "25 Years After Discovering HIV as the Cause of AIDS," co-hosted by the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the National Cancer Institute.  The symposium, being held May 9-11, 2009, will look back at the origins of research on human retroviruses and the 25 years since proving HIV as the cause of AIDS, summarize the accomplishments of a successful research enterprise, and look forward to overcoming obstacles in treatment and prevention for the global AIDS epidemic. For more information, please visit http://www.gallo25.umaryland.edu/


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