In the three decades since HIV was first identified in the United States, activists, providers, researchers, government agencies, and the pharmaceutical industry have all played a part in the quest to expand prevention and treatment options.
New scientific breakthroughs have reignited the hope of stopping not only transmission of the virus, but also its impact on the quality of life for HIV-positive people across the nation. In fact, 2017 is proving to be a springboard towards innovation, progress, and optimism. Over 52 medicines and vaccines for HIV are currently in development, according to 2017 HIV/AIDS Medicines in Development, and The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, an industry public relations and lobbying organization.
Overall, 32 medications on the list are antiretrovirals and antivirals, 16 are vaccines, and four are cell therapies, including a “potential first-in-class medicine intended to prevent HIV from attaching to new cells and breaking through the cell membrane.” All are either in clinical trials or awaiting review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
According to findings published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases, the number of people with HIV who are showing resistance to their drugs is increasing.
For HIV-positive people with resistance to both newer and older drugs, the development of manageable therapies could be a game changer. According to a 2012 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, two out of every 10 new HIV cases involve strains with at least partial resistance to one or more antiretroviral medications.
Less than one percent of new HIV diagnoses in the United States have a strain resistant to all classes of antiretroviral drugs, but that still represents hundreds of people each year who are resistant to all currently available therapies. These new drugs could offer those people a lifeline.
In conjunction with the release of the PhRMA report, American biopharmaceutical companies unveiled a new ad campaign, “Together,”
featuring an HIV-positive person and a researcher developing new treatments (including vaccines and treatments to overcome drug resistance).
Since the first AIDS cases were reported in 1981, the FDA has approved over 40 medications for HIV, according to PhRMA. The biggest pharmaceutical breakthrough came in the 1990s with highly active antiretroviral therapies that led AIDS-related deaths to plummet.
The next major innovation could be a cure, a vaccine, or simply a significant improvement in the long-term health of those living with HIV. Only time will tell whether that revolutionary treatment is on this list; but with more treatments in development now than have ever been approved, the odds are certainly good!
Additional research by Desireé Guerrero.