Toulon, France (PressExposure) June 24, 2011 -- Several years ago, in 2002, a group of scientists-consisting primarily of French and American researchers-identified the major topic that would dominate HIV research for the next several decades. That topic was "HIV Persistence in Viral Reservoirs." Although they failed to get the backing of official agencies and most pharmaceutical companies, they persisted and finally succeeded in launching the 1st International Workshop on HIV Persistence in December 2003. The initial workshop attracted 130 researchers working on the topic at hand -HIV persistence in reservoirs- and the search for a potential cure.
This was the beginning of an era of great success for antiretroviral therapy, and as improvements were made in the treatment, the higher the hopes of researchers around the world became. Almost everyone thought that life-long antiretroviral therapy would wind up being the answer, and that managing the potential side effects would drive the primary focus of all future meetings thereafter. That ended up not being the case, as it was shown over time that antiretroviral therapy is unsustainable for two reasons. First, the long term side effects and high costs were prompting many patients to quit therapy. Secondly, the large amount of money necessary to allow treatment access worldwide proved to be too much for many countries budget.
As a result, the workshop continued at a lower profile, with increased participation but marginal interest from firms. The limited interest didn't dissuade important scientific research from being made, however. Alain Lafeuillade, MD, Ph.D., Chief of the Department of Infectious Diseases in Toulon, France, who spearheaded the initiative behind the workshop and wanted to promote research for an HIV cure, is both pleased and amused that the topic, "HIV Persistence in Viral Reservoirs," is now driving the discussion in the scientific community when it comes to HIV.
As meetings initially focusing on antiretroviral therapy side effects or drug resistance have began to realize that this is the topic that needs addressing, everyone involved with HIV research is speaking about or in the name of HIV persistence and a possible cure for HIV. Since the fields of side effects and resistance are drying out in terms of novelties, the HIV reservoirs topic is now at the forefront. Because of the interest in the topic, more workshops have popped up in recent years discussing it. There are several meetings out now about this topic -many of them mixing the different subjects of HIV care- but the Workshop on HIV Persistence is the original one, the only exclusively focused on this issue, and the only one tackling the problem from animal models to humans.
This year, the workshop is co-sponsored by both the National Institues of Health (NIH) and the French Agency for AIDS Research (ANRS).
About the 5th International Workshop on HIV Persistence: http://www.informedhorizons.com/persistence2011/