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23 Dec 2011 06:35 AM

UNC HIV Prevention Research Named Scientific Breakthrough Of The Year


The HIV Prevention Trials Network 052 study, led by Myron S. Cohen, MD of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been named the 2011 Breakthrough of the Year by the journal Science.



HPTN 052 evaluated whether antiretroviral drugs can prevent sexual transmission of HIV among couples in which one partner has HIV and the other does not. The research found that early treatment with antiretroviral therapy reduced HIV transmission in couples by at least 96 percent.



The study was funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health.



The complete list of top 10 scientific breakthroughs of the year was published online today.



The editors at Science, the flagship publication of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, said in their announcement that "In combination with other promising clinical trials, the results have galvanized efforts to end the world's AIDS epidemic in a way that would been inconceivable even a year ago. 'The goal of an AIDS-free generation is ambitious, but it is possible,' U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told scientists last month."



The HPTN 052 study is proof of a concept more than 20 years in the making. "From the time the first AIDS drugs were developed in the mid-1990s, our UNC team of virologists, pharmacologists, and physicians has been working on the idea that antiretrovirals might make people less contagious," said Cohen, who is Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Epidemiology at UNC. "By 2000, the UNC study team thought the idea was strong enough to try to prove it. "This idea eventually became HPTN 052," Cohen said.



It would be another five years before researchers from the HIV Prevention Trials Network started enrolling people in the study, eventually nearly 2000 couples at 13 sites in nine countries . In May...
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