Defeating AIDS: What Will It Take?; July 1998; Scientific American Magazine; by Staff Editor; 1 Page(s)
Ten years ago, when Scientific American published an issue devoted to AIDS (the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), scientists knew that the disease, first identified in 1981, was caused by HIV (the human immunodeficiency virus). The virus had been uncovered within three years after AIDS itself was first recognized. But physicians were only beginning to understand that in the absence of an effective treatment, the virus was almost always fatal. And they were just starting to think of AIDS not as a discrete disorder but as the end stage of an unremitting HIV infection.
Today aggressive treatment can preserve health and prolong life for HIV-positive patients with access to optimal care. But the treatments are imperfect, costly and demanding. Further, they are unavailable to the overwhelming majority of HIV-infected people, most of whom live in the developing world. Clearly, the best solution is prevention by an inexpensive vaccine, but no vaccine is in sight. For now, behavioral change remains the main way to limit transmission of the virus.