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May 2, 2011 / Dr. Toad

Biochemical HIV Prevention

I went to a really interesting talk today, by Seattle-based world expert on global clinical trials Connie Celum.

It was a historical overview of Dr Celum’s more than twenty-year-long efforts to find a viable way to prevent HIV infection. It also gave the small audience of mostly medicine and public health scientists a glimpse into her personal story.

Dr Celum went to medical school in San Francisco in the early 1980s, just as young gay men started dying from terrible cases of pneumonia. Yesterday, almost thirty years later, she was selected by the American STD Association for an achievement award.

For 1.5 hours she talked about the increasingly large-scale and global studies that she designed and coordinated over the course of those years — about finding the original risk factors for HIV infection, finding that behavior changes weren’t enough to prevent HIV acquisition, finding new factors, hypothesizing a link between herpes and HIV susceptibility and infectuousness, the follow-up study to last year’s famous breakthrough in HIV prevention due to preventative antiretroviral drug therapy…  with a very pointed emphasis on the combination approach to HIV prevention (including behavior change, treatment drugs and prevention drugs, as well as social justice and human rights) and the great cooperative effort required to study, let alone address, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa.

I want to say a lot more about the talk, about the medical research, about the global health effort, and about Dr Celum herself. Coming soon in a different post.

This talk was the season’s distinguished faculty lecture at the School of Public Health at the University of Washington. The next one in that series probably won’t be until the Fall, but I’ll be there if at all possible. Recommendation: definite ‘accept’.

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