The gloves have been off in the fight against AIDS for some time, but the National Institutes of Health may finally be going for the knockout. The organization is now planning to redirect AIDS research funds in an effort to expand support for research toward finding a cure for HIV. Over the next three fiscal years, the NIH will be investing an additional $100 million on this area of HIV/AIDS research. NIH says financing for the new initiatives will come from existing resources and also a redirection of funds from expiring AIDS research grants over the next three years.
NIAID director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., said in a statement made at the White House in a presentation that was part of an event commemorating World AIDS Day that while the epidemic could be ended by scaling up the tools that have already been established as effective in treating HIV and preventing its spread, a cure could help the millions of people currently infected that have to rely on antiretroviral treatments. Also, he added, many new developments in AIDS research have brought the once seemingly insurmountable task of finding a cure for the deadly disease into the realm of possibility.
"Our growing understanding of the cellular hiding places or 'reservoirs' of HIV, the development of new strategies to minimize or deplete these reservoirs, and encouraging reports of a small number of patients who have little or no evidence of virus despite having halted antiretroviral therapy, all suggest that the time is ripe to pursue HIV cure research with vigor," Dr. Fauci said.
The NIH expects a significant portion of the new investment will go toward supporting basic research including studies on viral reservoirs, viral latency, and viral persistence, as well as research on neutralizing antibodies. Also supported will be research on animal models, drug development, and preclinical testing of more potent antiretroviral compounds that can diminish viral reservoirs, plus clinical research including studies on immune enhancers such as therapeutic vaccines. Other high-priority AIDS research, including prevention research and studies to develop less toxic treatments, will continue to be supported.