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HIV/AIDS remains potent since discovery 25 years ago
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Despite the successes that have been registered by scientist and researchers, HIV/AIDS continues to defy science with many predicting that the road to a cure or a vaccine would remain elusive at least within the foreseeable future since its discovery 25 years ago, French researchers said on Friday.

On May 20, 1983, in an article published by the US journal Science, a team of doctors and researchers from the Paris-based Pasteur Institute, led by Prof. Luc Montagnier, described the emergence of a new virus, different to previously known viruses. They suspected it was responsible for the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

Isolated from a patient infected with HIV, the Pasteur medical team baptized the new virus LAV, associating it with lymphadenopathy in reference to the syndrome of swollen glands which is often a common warning that one is suffering from the disease.

"I would have wished to celebrate an anniversary marking the end of the epidemic rather than making a publication on the same," Montagnier was quoted as telling reporters in Paris recently.

The work by the French team was the first to draw lines between the virus and the disease, said the researcher, adding that "the following year, a US team led by Robert Gallo helped to put the matter to rest by adducing concrete evidences over the same."

The key discovery led to the "development of a test for detecting the virus in the blood, implementation and creation of health policies to prevent and correct inhibitors (the virus) to treat sufferers without cure," according to Montagnier.

Never before had science and medicine been so quick to discover, identify the origin and lay down the foundations for the treatment of the disease.

"At first the atmosphere was optimistic. Would we not manage to defeat this disease thanks to high standards of hygiene, antibiotics and numerous anti-infectious diseases vaccines?" medical professionals had wondered.

But they were not aware of the extraordinary ability of this virus, now known as HIV, to defy all the known patterns and turn against all the defenses of the body, a prominent US researcher said recently.

In April 1984, US Health Secretary Margaret Heckler had amid pomp and fanfare announced the "discovery" of the AIDS virus by a team led by Prof. Gallo, adding that "we hope to have a vaccine ready for testing in about two years."

Almost 24 years later, the world is almost tired of such promises as they have been made time and time again. Maybe this is the reason why researchers have become more cautious in their pronouncements aware of the extraordinary complexity of the virus.

However, if research has not given up on the disease, there is still no effective preventive vaccine against the pandemic that has and is still ravaging people in developing countries.

The war against the disease has been eventful, at times making headlines for all the wrong reasons and even escalating into a bitter rivalry between researchers, governments and drug companies.

On the one hand, there are the researchers who want royalties for their inventions and companies that want profits from their investments, while on the other, there are countries which want affordable medicine to take care of the active people that keeps their economic machines running.

Shortly after the discovery of the virus, the Pasteur Institute and the Gallo team were involved in an animated rivalry that spilt over to court corridors in the United States over a patent for a testing machine, but an agreement was reached in 1987.

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