Cause for Hope on World AIDS Day

Tomorrow is the 25th annual observance of World AIDS Day. This year’s theme–Shared Responsibility: Strengthening Results for an AIDS-Free Generation—calls for collaboration between governments, researchers and the community to improve the lives of people with HIV/AIDS.

While there is no cure for AIDS, there has been significant progress in prevention and treatment:

  • The number of new HIV infections in 2012 decreased by 33 percent compared to 2001.
  • A powerful new combination of anti-retroviral therapies have lengthened the lives of HIV-positive patients.
  • By the end of last year, 10 million people had gained access to life-saving anti-retroviral drugs, which dramatically decreased AIDS-related deaths.
  • Adding new drugs to the pipeline and increasing availability of existing treatments can further reduce AIDS-related mortalities and increase the life expectancy of those with HIV.

A New Challenge

As the HIV-positive population ages, cardiovascular disease has become an increasing concern. Recent studies have demonstrated that HIV infection is associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease, although the reasons are not currently clear.

Seed funding from Concerned Parents for AIDS Research has allowed my colleagues an I to initiate studies to characterize HIV-triggered inflammatory pathways that alter lipid metabolism in ways that lead to heart disease. We found that several HIV proteins trigger macrophages (a type of white blood cell) to develop features that promote the formation of atherosclerotic plaques. As we continue this research, we hope to identify new therapies to decrease the risk of atherosclerosis and improve quality of life for individuals living long-term with HIV.

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