Welcome to Time to End HIV

Welcome to Time to End HIV, an initiative by the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Tropical Medicine (MITM) at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington D.C.

Today, the HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to haunt the world. Currently, 35 million people worldwide are infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the causative agent of the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Last year alone, 1.5 million people died as a result of their HIV infection and more than 2 million new infections were documented. 

We are a group of researchers working in our nation’s capital who have made it their mission to end HIV and AIDS once and for all. We are taking an active part in HIV cure research and are developing novel and innovative HIV eradication strategies through basic science, and aim to rapidly translate our findings into the clinic.

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An introduction to HIV & AIDS

HIV/AIDS is a global pandemic that affects more than 35 million people in almost every country in the world. In the United States, 1.2 million people above 13 years of age are living with HIV/AIDS, and there are approximately 50,000 new infections every year.

HIV is a lentivirus that has devastating effects on the human immune system because it infects and kills specific types of immune cells that are essential for coordinating regular immune responses. Over time, the HIV-induced death of these crucial immune cells causes AIDS, a state of progressive immune failure in which the body is susceptible to cancers and opportunistic infections.

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Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a special form of antiviral treatment taken before a potential exposure to HIV aiming to prevent HIV-negative people from becoming infected with HIV. For the prevention of HIV infection, a protective vaccine would also have several important advantages.

We are developing innovative strategies for HIV vaccine design using fossil viruses and intrinsic resistance factors, as well as objective tools for HIV risk assessment to make informed choices about the initiation of pre-exposure prophylaxis and other HIV prevention strategies.

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Over the past years, advances in antiretroviral therapies have substantially improved the quality of life for many HIV patients. Antiretroviral drugs can suppress HIV in the blood of an HIV-infected individual to nearly undetectable levels, however HIV patients suffer from a number of comorbidities such as cardiovascular diseases. Without antiretroviral treatment, most HIV-infected individuals progress to AIDS within ten years of the initial infection, making them susceptible to opportunistic infections by a great number of microorganisms.

We are exploring novel biologics for treating HIV infection and improving treatments for opportunistic infections and comorbidities in HIV/AIDS patients.

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Currently there is no treatment or procedure that is able to completely remove HIV from a person’s body. Only one person in the world has so far been cured of his HIV infection, the famous “Berlin patient”. The development of a vaccine against HIV is particularly difficult due to HIV’s very high rate of sequence mutation and the resulting high genetic variability of the virus. This enables HIV to successfully escape from virus-specific immune responses.

Our strategy to develop a vaccine against HIV focuses on an alternative approach using non-HIV antigenic determinants that will prevent HIV from evading the immune response.

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