|[February 26, 2013]
Congressman Henry Waxman Meets on Cure for HIV
LOS ANGELES --(Business Wire)--
On January 31st, 2013, a team comprised of leading cure
scientists and AIDS support group leaders met with Congressman
Henry Waxman (CA-33) in his district office in Los Angeles to
address a cure for HIV and the problem of inadequate funding. In
attendance were Dr. Ronald Mitsuyasu, UCLA
Center for Clinical AIDS Research and Education; Dr. Paula
Keck School of Medicine; Phil Curtis, AIDS
Project Los Angeles (APLA) Director of Government Affairs;
Congressman Henry Waxman; Gerald Gerash, cure activist and lawyer; David
O'Dell (News - Alert), long term HIV/AIDS patient and activist; Kevin Kurth, Executive
Director of Being
Alive; and Michael Weinstein, President and Founder of AIDS
Healthcare Foundation (AHF).
Congressman Henry Waxman Meets on Funding Research for Cure for HIV. (L to R) Dr. Rnald Mitsuyasu, UCLA Center for Clinical AIDS Research and Education; Dr. Paula Cannon, USC Keck School of Medicine; Phil Curtis, AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) Director of Government Affairs; Congressman Henry Waxman; Gerald Gerash, cure activist and lawyer; David O'Dell, long term HIV/AIDS patient and activist; Kevin Kurth, Executive Director of Being Alive; and Michael Weinstein, President and Founder of AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) at recent meeting to discuss research funding for a cure for HIV. (Photo: Business Wire)
Gerald Gerash, who organized the meeting and a longtime gay
rights advocate whose recent passion has turned toward a cure for
HIV/AIDS, led off with an introductory overview. He noted that the
National Institutes of Health (NIH) allocates a mere 3% of its 3 billion
dollar HIV research budget to cure research. He further stated that in
light of the amazing scientific advances towards a cure, this paltry
amount needs to be markedly increased.
In spite of the HIV treatment medications, he continued, only 28% of the
1.1 million in the U.S. with HIV have an undetectable amount of HIV in
their blood. However, HIV is still hiding out in cells in other parts of
their bodies, impenetrable to the treatment medication. And even the 28%
are saddled with side effects and can die at a higher rate than non-HIV
people. Clearly, he concluded, the present methods "to end AIDS" are not
working. He hoped that Mr. Waxman, with his past leadership on AIDS
issues, such as the Ryan White Care Act will step forward and provide
the vision he is so capable of in the march to a cure for HIV/AIDS.
Next David O'Dell, a former successful documentary film maker
with National Geographic, reported on his 27-year battle with HIV/AIDS.
Although within the 28% group, his many ongoing side effects of
medications and complications from the HIV, including a stroke and
extreme neuropathy, due to general inflammation caused by HIV and the
treatment medications themselves have resulted in disability requiring
governmental financial assistance. This was gripping testimony about a
stark life with what is popularly called a "chronic controllable
disease" or the "new HIV normal."
The scientists, Drs. Mitsuyasu and Cannon, discussed their
ongoing, extraordinary and promising efforts in the area of anti-HIV
gene and stem cell therapy to knock out the CCR5 receptor or "hook" onto
which the HIV virus latches in order to enter the T-cell. Inspired by
"the Berlin patient," Timothy Brown, who was cured of HIV by the use of
blood stem cells from a person who was born with T-cells lacking CCR5,
they hope to duplicate his result in a safe way for people with HIV.
Their novel approaches are at the forefront of AIDS cure research, one
already at the early stage of human testing.
Turning to Mr. Waxman, Dr. Cannon pointed out how their work and the
promising research of other scientists leading to a cure, desperately
need more funding.
Michael Weinstein, president of AHF (the largest HIV medical
organization in the world and recently returned from his work in Africa)
provided statistical information regarding the number of HIV/AIDS cases
in the United States (1.1 million). Mr. Weinstein noted that the cost to
provide medicine and healthcare to the 50,000 individuals who each year
test positive for HIV exceeds $600,000 per patient over the course of
their lifetimes, or a price tag (News - Alert) of 30 billion dollars added to the
crisis every year. In addition to agreeing that NIH should drastically
increase their budget for cure research, he asked why so many very
promising HIV cure research proposals are rejected for funding. Paula
Cannon's research, for example, is funded by the California Institute of
Regenerative Medicine (Prop 71).
At the end of the presentations, Mr. Waxman stated that he supports the
campaign for a cure of HIV. He agreed with the Himes/Lee Bill, "Cure for
AIDS Act," which authorizes $100 million for cure research over five
years. Mr. Waxman said he will examine the Bill and consider
Mr. Waxman also will ask NIH to rethink the issue of funding for cure
research. Among the issues he will raise: why funding for cure research
is so limited, why cure research isn't a line item of NIH, and NIH's
protocols in accepting cure research applications. Mr. Waxman also
raised the general idea for advocates for a cure to approach private
philanthropy (such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) for cure
research funding. Mr. Waxman asked that each person present at the
meeting write a letter to him stating all his or her concerns.
These efforts by a knowledgeable and highly experienced group of
scientists and HIV activists, along with Congressman Waxman's
receptivity and agreement to add his efforts for the cause, brings hope
to the millions of people worldwide with HIV/AIDS, and who are desperate
for a cure.
Photos/Multimedia Gallery Available: http://www.businesswire.com/multimedia/home/20130226006783/en/
[ InfoTech Spotlight's Homepage ]