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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La recherche sur le sida est en faillite

by Ixchel Delaporte

« AIDS Research Is Bankrupt »

Translated Thursday 1 April 2010, by Isabelle Métral and reviewed by Henry Crapo

Interviewed by l’Humanité last Tuesday on 2010 Sidaction day [1] on which calls to donors are relayed through TV channels (public and private), radio stations and websites [2], Jean-François Delfraissy, head of ANRS (the French national agency for AIDS research) warns that prevention having failed, the virus remains very active. J-F Delfraissy makes an inventory of AIDS research today. To him, the excellent record of AIDS research so far cannot be maintained without State funding.

HUMA: how far has the virus spread over the planet?

DELFRAISSY: In France and in Northern countries, treatment and tri-therapies are available that block the multiplication of the virus and make it possible to live with it despite the side effects. But that is not enough. One cannot be content with developing drugs that only block the virus. This is an infectious disease. It must be eradicated. When antivirus treatment is stopped, the virus picks up again immediately in a latent form, in reservoirs, which cannot be eliminated, in different places in the body. So an important sector of AIDS research addresses the necessity of understanding these virus reservoirs.

HUMA : Why isn’t prevention sufficient?

DELFRAISSY: AIDS remains the major epidemic in this early 21st century. Prevention so far has had limited effect. That’s a fact. The only sound advice that can be given is to modify one’s sexual behaviour and use condoms. This sole message is indispensible. But it is not sufficient. New preventative strategies must be developed: more research is needed into sexual behaviour, which is not easy; above all efforts must be made to base prevention on medical treatment. So new tools will be used, antiviral drugs among them. By treating people at a very early stage, the number of people likely to contaminate others will be drastically cut. Now that is a question for researchers. Also anti-viral drugs can be used before or after high-risk intercourse. Not forgetting the development of a vaccine.

HUMA: You are alerting the government to the lack of funds…

DELFRAISSY : Research cannot make progress without money. Tests cost a lot of money. The ANRS budget has not changed since 2005 despite the outbreak of hepatitis and the consequent increase in the budgets. Also we’ve had to fund research grants for HIV. The agency’s activity has so far been adequately funded. But in 2010 funds are going to be inadequate, and in 2011 our activity’s going to be hamstrung. I am confronted with a budgetary bankruptcy and a scientific bankruptcy. I shan’t be able to fund excellent projects that have won recognition at an international level. So I am appealing to the State. It’s a national priority, which requires a political decision. France is the second community after the US in terms of scientific production on AIDS, despite far smaller budgets. We won the Nobel prize in medicine for our AIDS research last year. That’s something about which to feel proud.

[1sida is French for AIDS

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