The adoption of a new scientific Aids strategy to cure HIV rather than simply treat it with drugs for many years should not divert funding away from existing anti-Aids projects, a Nobel prize-winning scientist said yesterday.
Professor Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, who shared the Nobel prize for co-discovering the Aids virus, said that a cure for HIV had become a possibility in the light of evidence that it was possible for people to shrug off infection without the long-term help of anti-retroviral drugs.
"The science has been telling us for some time that achieving a cure for HIV infection could be a realistic possibility. The time is right to take the opportunity to try and develop an HIV cure – we might regret never having tried," Professor Barré-Sinoussi said. Speaking last night at a conference in Washington to launch a strategy document on "HIV cure research", Professor Barré-Sinoussi warned that nothing must jeopardise existing measures aimed at treating and preventing HIV infection.
"Under no circumstances should the inclusion of 'cure' in the global response direct funding away from treatment, prevention and care programmes, or from biomedical research on HIV and its consequences, including vaccine and other prevention research," she said.
Professor Barré-Sinoussi, who carried out her Nobel prize-winning research at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, is the president-elect of the International Aids Society, which last year convened a group of 34 leading HIV researchers to formulate a strategy for the discovery of a cure.
The strategy highlights the case of Timothy Brown, the "Berlin Patient", who is the first person to be cured of HIV following two bone-marrow transplants to treat leukaemia.