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Ohio State panel to discuss 30 years of HIV and AIDS research

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HIV and AIDS awareness has grown in the past 30 years with the development and expansion of medical research.

Ohio State will host a panel on Thursday called “Where We Are Now: 30 Years of HIV/AIDS Research” at 4:30 p.m. in Sullivant Hall 141. The discussion will look at how far treatment has come and how the issue looks from multiple social perspectives, according to the Arts Initiative website.

AIDS, or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, was first discovered in 1981 in California, according to AVERT’s website. Avert is an international HIV and AIDS charity.

OSU has research facilities, clinics, doctors and researchers focused on HIV and AIDS research.

Susan Koletar, director of OSU’s Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Internal Medicine, spoke about Ohio State’s role in AIDS and HIV research.

“We have made huge contributions,” Koletar said. “We have literally put hundreds of patients in studies that have basically informed the current treatment paradigms. We are on the cutting edge of enrollment and trial design with some of these strategies.”

The Division of Infectious Diseases, within the Department of Internal Medicine, conducts much of this research. The division contains an AIDS Clinical Trials Unit, which is “a research site that continues to augment the medical community’s knowledge about new treatments for person with HIV/AIDS,” according to the division’s website.

Michael Para, associate dean and clinical research professor of internal medicine, spoke about the beginning of the virus.

“Once we started to see patients, there literally was no treatment. There was nothing,” said Para. “We didn’t know what it was.”

Progress in the research of various drug treatments have made HIV rather manageable to live with, Para said.

“Now the drugs are really very good,” he said. “They are single, one pill a day that’s very well tolerated. Treating HIV right now is almost as easy as treating hypertension.”

“When you give people medicine for HIV, it stops the virus from growing. The virus grows in immune cells and it kills the immune system,” Para said. “You give medication that stops the virus from growing, the virus is no longer killing the immune system and the immune system actually heals itself.”

Despite very manageable treatments, the virus does not disappear. It goes into what Para called  a “sleep.” When people go off their medication, the virus reawakens and begins killing cells again.

While there might be a ways to go for a cure, strides have been made in the world of HIV and AIDS research.

“I don’t think any of us who have done this for a long time would have ever thought that we would be at this point where we would be able to anticipate the idea of a cure,” Koletar said.

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