amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

As Good as It Can Be: Optimizing HIV Treatment


November 19, 2009—In order to increase the number of people who know their HIV status and seek appropriate care, in September 2006 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control released new recommendations designed to incorporate HIV testing into routine healthcare. Anticipating many of the challenges inherent in such a sweeping public health intervention, amfAR awarded grants to ten researchers exploring sociobehavioral and biological factors that inform the optimization of HIV treatment.

In September 2009, a group of these amfAR-funded researchers gathered at MIT’s Endicott House to present their findings and strategize on next steps. One scientist’s research led to her involvement in discussions about changing state law in response to the new CDC testing recommendations; another studied what the HIV testing experience is like for homeless youth; a third grantee described the different views of physicians and patients on the ethics of the new testing recommendations; and another searched for ways to improve knowledge and awareness among both physicians and patients of the symptoms of acute infection, and how this information can be used to reduce HIV transmission.

Biomedical researchers shared new information on how molecular events that occur early in HIV infection set the stage for what happens during the course of the disease; on the ability of HIV to hide in anatomical locations beyond the reach of ART; on the deleterious effects of substance abuse on HIV infection outcome and the ability to effectively treat substance abusers; and intriguing evidence that some newer ARVs might be of benefit not only directly against the virus but against some of the conditions associated with HIV infection such as heart and liver disease.

“One of amfAR’s unique abilities is to bring together scientists who conduct research in disparate areas,” said Dr. Rowena Johnston, amfAR’s director of research. “These meetings provide an environment in which they can share what they have accomplished, consider what needs to be done, and think about what direction amfAR can take next so that we can further optimize treatment and build a roadmap to a cure? I’m very excited that amfAR is playing a leading role by expanding the boundaries of our knowledge.”

To learn more about the researchers and their findings, view our short video by clicking on the image above.