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World AIDS Day & an Unexpected Way to Give

December 1, 2015

Proteomics & Geonomics Researcher

Today is World AIDS Day and Giving Tuesday, and with the two falling on the same date, we couldn’t think of a better donation cause than giving your biospecimens to medical research. After all, not all giving has to come from your wallet; donations can also come from allowing use of your remnant specimens to help advance research, or even donating expressly for research purposes. As we’ve covered many times on our blog, research on human biospecimens has been a precursor to the discovery of critical diagnostics and treatments that we have today, for a variety of diseases.

Regarding HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, much progress has been made in trying to understand the infection and hunt for a cure. HIV first came on the scene nearly 35 years ago, resulting in mysterious deaths from an unknown killer. In 1983, the virus was identified and named, the first blood test was approved in 1985, and the first antiretroviral medication, known as “AZT”, was introduced in 1987. In 1996, the first combination antiretroviral drug was approved, and after peaking at 2.3 million AIDS-related deaths globally in 2005, the number finally began to slow in 2006. The year 2012 marked FDA approval of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), a once daily treatment that greatly reduces the risk of an uninfected individual from becoming infected.

Today, people are living near normal lives with HIV and are able to control the condition by taking just one pill a day. Five such all-in-one pills are currently approved for use. Also today, through education and prevention, the risk of transmission has been substantially reduced if proper precautions are followed. While a cure remains elusive, here are some of the biggest breakthroughs in research and discovery from this year:

  • A study conducted at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco showed that the 2012-approved PrEP treatment kept 100% of participants infection-free.
  • The START Trial, of over 4,600 participants, concluded that immediate treatment reduces the risk of both AIDS-related and non-AIDS-related illness by about half.
  • The FDA approves all-in-one pill Genvoya®, providing a new option for patients seeking a once-a-day therapy.
  • A trial backed by Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline showed that injections every 4 or 8 weeks could be just as effective in suppressing the virus as taking pills every day.
  • Just yesterday, on the eve of World AIDS Day, the Foundation for AIDS Research, amfAR, awarded a $20 million grant to a group of San Francisco-based researchers who have a goal of developing the scientific basis for a cure within the next 5 years.

While there is still more to be done, it is clear that eradicating HIV remains a critical mission for scientists around the world. As we observe this year’s World AIDS Day, and in light of it being Giving Tuesday, we are reminded that each and every one of us can do our part in helping advance medical research by giving of ourselves. And it is a misconception that only disease-state samples are helpful – scientists need normal samples as well to compare and contrast their findings. So next time you’re at the doctor’s office, if presented with an option to send your biospecimens on to research, we hope that you will consider this unexpected way to give.

For more on how to get involved with both World AIDS Day and Giving Tuesday as well as the benefit of using specimens for AIDS research, please visit the following resources:

World AIDS Day
Giving Tuesday
Case Study: The UCSF AIDS Specimen Bank


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