October 5 declared first AIDS Cure Day

World Aids Day.jpg

The AIDS Policy Project has declared the first annual AIDS Cure Day for Saturday, October 5, 2013. The past few years have seen major breakthroughs in the search for a cure for AIDS, with 19 people identified as either cured or in “remission” at major medical meetings such as the July, 2013 International AIDS Conference in Kuala Lumpur. “Remission” is a term used when a treatment has allowed a patient’s immune system to keep the virus at bay without medication. The AIDS Policy Project has asked people living with AIDS and their allies to hold small, informal “teach-ins” on AIDS cure research and activism on or around Saturday, October 5th; several dozen events will take place across the US and in a number of developing countries (Burma, Zimbabwe, South Africa).

The event also coincides with Nashville AIDS Walk which takes place on Saturday October 5.

The goal of the event is to increase public awareness and support for the effort to find a cure for AIDS. Currently, 34 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, with only half of those who need treatment able to access it according to the policy organization HealthGAP. Treatment is paid for by wealthy governments, but the funding for it varies according to political will.

“People with access to AIDS treatment in developing countries may not have it tomorrow. And people living with AIDS need to take an expensive pill every day for the rest of their lives or they’ll die,” said AIDS Policy Project member Jose Demarco. The US spends $25 billion each year on US and foreign AIDS programs, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. It currently spends $56.4 million on AIDS cure research, mostly at the National Institutes of Health. “We need treatment to keep people alive, but a cure is a sustainable way to end the AIDS epidemic,” said Demarco.

Says Kate Krauss, Executive Director of the AIDS Policy Project, “We want to teach people what we know so far in the search for a cure for AIDS. We’ve made gigantic progress, but we need the resources and political will to reach this goal. It’s ironic that AIDS Cure Day will take place when the National Institutes of Health will still likely be shut down. They are the biggest funder of AIDS cure research in the world. The NIH has a red warning box on their home page explaining that they have been shut down because the government has been closed down (www.NIH.gov).

Because the science has had breakthroughs just in the past few years, private funding is also lagging behind. “The science has made great progress in just the past few years—so many foundations aren’t yet aware of it. Philanthropists could be pivotal in actually curing AIDS.” Of the $80 million spent on AIDS cure research worldwide, less than $2 million comes from philanthropic sources. “This is the moment to step up and participate if you’ve ever cared about ending the AIDS crisis,” said Krauss.