A Look at the AIDS Virus on the 25th Anniversary of Its Discovery

Richard Ingham in Cosmos:

“In the field of AIDS, a huge number of mistakes have been made over the past 25 years,” sighs a leading French researcher, Olivier Schwartz of the Pasteur Institute in Paris.

On the plus side, the men and women in lab coats made good headway against HIV. They provided an arsenal of drugs that, with the advent of the triple “cocktail” of antiretrovirals in the mid-1990s, have helped turn HIV from a death sentence to a manageable disease.

But there is still no vaccine, for the virus has turned out to be an unimaginably slippery, mutating foe – quite possibly the most elusive pathogen to have emerged in human history. Attempts to make an HIV-thwarting vaginal gel, or microbicide, have been similarly frustrating.

Thus, in the 21st century, the main shield against HIV is the rubber condom, invented in the 19th century – or sexual abstention, which is timeless.

Then there was catastrophic delay, among politicians, policymakers, religious leaders and the public too, about rooting out the taboo, stigma, myth and complacency in which AIDS proliferates.

This work still remains dangerously incomplete.