HIV AIDS Pill & Prevention Tools to Be Revealed in Boston

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Feb 22, 2016 07:25 AM EST

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 8: HIV-positive Shana Reynolds-Fairley, 34, has her blood tested and measured during one of her frequent appointments to the Georgetown University Hospital Infusion Center August 8, 2013 in Washington, DC. Shana, 34, is a resident at Joseph's House, a hospice that provides nursing and support services to homeless men and women dying of AIDS and cancer. In 2006 Shana and her husband were diagnosed with HIV, most likely the result of the risky life her husband lived before they were married in 2001. According to the District of Columbia Department of Health, while the overall HIV infection rate in Washington declined from 2010 to 2012, the infection rate for heterosexual African American women in the District's poorest neighborhoods nearly doubled, from 6.3 percent to 12.1 percent, over the same time period. (Photo : Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Boston's annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections is set to reveal two new tools designed to control the outbreak of HIV/AIDS cases. During the four-day event, scientists will be unveiling technologies used to prevent the transmission of HIV and vaccines.

In the U.S. alone, approximately 1.2 million people are infected with HIV. Around 12.8 percent of the population, or one out of eight individuals, are unaware that they have the infection. Worldwide, the infection has spread to 37 million people.

Although 15 million people now have access to antiretroviral therapy, ensuring that patients obtain adequate care is still a challenge, especially in areas with limited resources. Instead of devoting resources to finding a cure, this year's studies look into protecting people from getting infected.

Studies indicate that it was during the 1980s when the first AIDS cases were documented. Little was known about the virus and how it could be treated.

During that time, treating the infection consisted of taking over ten pills at a time, with some medications causing serious side effects. Treatments for HIV and AIDS have come a long way since then.

Now, a single pill, when taken daily, can make individuals less likely to spread the infection to other people. Known as Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), this treatment can be taken by high-risk individuals, including bisexuals and homosexuals.

One PrEP drug is sold under the name Truvada. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, taking this pill can reduce the risk of infection by approximately 90 percent.

Another technology that is garnering widespread attention involves a vaginal ring holding antiretroviral medicine. The effectiveness of this tool has already been tested in two large studies conducted in South Africa.

During the study, female volunteers were asked to replace the ring on a monthly basis. This makes it easier for women to stay safe and be protected against infection, even if her partner decides not to wear a condom.

A new generation of vaginal rings is being developed as we speak. The new rings are expected to be more durable and replaced only once every three months.

The event is also expected to showcase the newest findings in developing a vaccine against HIV.

Research has shown that some individuals have developed a resiliency against the HIV infection. The modified antibodies have been tested on animals with promising results.

Another set of antibodies, known as the VRC01, will be tested on 4,000 volunteers based in the U.S., sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America beginning March.

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