Slower progress likely in search for HIV cure : Liz Hunt reflects on the pluses and minuses of the Aids conference in Amsterdam this week
Saturday 25 July 1992
There were 11,000 delegates who negotiated their way through nearly 5,000 scientific papers, talks and presentations. There were protests, sit-ins and 'die-ins'. And there was Hollywood too. Liz Taylor as founder of AmFar, the American Foundation for Aids Research; and Francis Ford Coppola, the film director, researching a new film - working title: The Cure.
A cure is why they all came. But Mr Coppola is likely to be more successful in his quest.
As the conference closed yesterday, the inescapable conclusion was that, despite the most intensive clinical research ever devoted to one disease, progress will now be slow and painstaking.
Rapid advances in the first decade of Aids - of finding the virus and developing a test, of new drugs to slow the onset of Aids and better drugs to treat related infections - will be followed by a 'consolidation' phase, according to Anthony Pinching, Professor of Immunology at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London. 'And we're in for a hard, long haul.'
But there was some good news. Large-scale trials of some candidate vaccines, which may protect healthy people from HIV, are likely to begin by 1995. And progress is reported for therapeutic vaccines too - vaccines for HIV-positive people, which may boost their immune system.
Drug therapy against the virus and the infections it causes remains the best way of prolonging life, and there are hundreds of trials of new drugs.
But one issue overshadowed all. The occurrence of an Aids-like illness in patients without HIV, and the claim by a Californian doctor that he has found a new virus which may be the cause.
Aids experts were sceptical and said that it was a preliminary report only, but journalists pursued the story relentlessly. Under the spotlight, the World Health Organisation has called an urgent meeting to discuss the cases. The 'new' virus was dubbed MTV - the media-transformed virus.
Away from the impromptu press briefings, social issues - and particularly the role of women - were a central theme of the conference. Dr Michael Merson, of WHO's global programme on Aids, said that HIV 'thrived' on poverty and discrimination.
Women, as wives, lovers and mothers, have a key role in education prevention. 'Empowering' women, particularly in the Third World, so that they could talk with their partners about safer sex was vital. Developing protection for women - such as the female condom - was also a priority.
And then there was Africa. The sheer scale of the Aids epidemic, with a quarter of the adult population infected in some areas, is difficult to comprehend. A second epidemic has taken hold too, and tuberculosis is making people with Aids die faster while it spreads to those who do not have HIV.
The numbers affected are staggering, but it is the personal stories which have the greatest impact. The 76-year-old man who is caring for eight grandchildren left orphans by Aids, or the elder sisters who must care for younger children because their parents are dead or dying. The conference offered little in the way of hope to these people.
- 1 Bill Clinton portrait features Monica Lewinsky reference, artist admits
- 2 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 3 Pornhub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 Average penis size revealed: Scientists attempt to find what is 'normal' to reassure concerned men
Bill Clinton portrait features Monica Lewinsky reference, artist admits
Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
Kanye West gives guest lecture at Oxford University: 'If I, Kanye West, can remove my ego, I think there's hope for everyone'
'This is what Islam tells us to do': A rare glimpse inside a Saudi Arabian prison – where Isis terrorists are showered with perks and privileges
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
£45000 - £53000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: Learning & Develo...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's largest regional newspaper pub...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: As a successful and growing Security Installat...