Melbourne, Australia – On the eve of the Sydney Mardi Gras, one of Australia’s leading medical research and public health organisations, the Burnet Institute, is calling for increased government and philanthropic support in its quest to find a cure for HIV.
“As Australia’s GLBTI community celebrates the 35th Sydney Mardi Gras this weekend, the fight to turn the tide against HIV and find a cure continues,” Burnet Director and CEO Professor Brendan Crabb said.
More than 34 million people around the world live with HIV and tragically it still claims the lives of more than two million each year.
“It’s a fight that needs to be won,” he said.
“Australian scientists are at the cutting-edge of HIV research and more than ever we need on-going financial support from the Federal Government and from the community to achieve a 30-year quest to find a cure.
“Without an increased commitment in funding the significant progress towards finding a cure will stall.”
More lives are being saved than ever before through access to antiretroviral treatment. While increased awareness campaigns and improved access to antiretroviral drugs have contributed to numbers of new infections reducing in
some countries, Professor Crabb said a lack of a vaccine or cure has been a major factor in the continued spread among vulnerable populations in the Asia/Pacific region and African countries.
“In many countries of our region, men who have sex with men and people who use drugs are often unable to access HIV services either because of their lack, or from a fear of discrimination and harassment. This contributes to increased spread of infection but also an increased risk of tuberculosis, hepatitis and other infectious diseases,” he said.
“At Burnet we are tackling HIV head-on, with more than half our work addressing laboratory-based research into finding a cure for the disease while our public health programs are focused on education and prevention in Australia and overseas.
“While a vaccine and a cure is being prioritised by Burnet’s scientists, we have made significant progress in other areas such as diagnostics, drug treatment, HIV latency, antiretroviral drug toxicity and microbicides for HIV prevention.”
The Burnet-led development of an innovative, low-cost, point-of-care VISITECT® CD4 test, now being trialled in Zimbabwe, could markedly improve the health of millions of HIV-infected people in resource-constrained settings.
“If we are to live in an HIV-free world, more than ever we need to discover a preventable vaccine and find that cure! We’re getting closer, but to achieve that we need support to continue to invest in all aspects of research,” Professor Crabb said.