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AIDS Epidemic: Is an End Possible?

More than 30 years after the discovery of the AIDS virus, experts are optimistic that a cure for the disease will be found, and that an end to the AIDS epidemic is possible.

But they caution there is still a lot of work to be done.

Since the first cases of AIDS were reported in 1981, more than 25 million people worldwide have died of AIDS. There are currently 33 million people living with AIDS, including 1 million in the United States. There are 50,000 new infections in the United States each year.

Three methods that are being explored to end the AIDS epidemic are drugs, vaccines and gene therapy.

There are already drugs that can prevent AIDS, which is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Recent research has shown that taking antiretroviral drugs not only reduces the amount of HIV in the body, it can also stop transmission of the virus. People at high risk for contracting HIV can now take a daily pill to prevent infection, Dr. Robert Grant, an HIV researcher at the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology, said here Friday (May 31) at a panel at the World Science Festival.

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