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ORANGE COUNTY VOICES

Battle Against AIDS Is Far From Over

June 01, 1997|DAVID WEINSTEIN | David Weinstein is a division manager for Roche Laboratories in San Diego. He writes from Trabuco Canyon

At the end of 1996, as it does each year, the distinguished publication Science named what it regards as the year's major scientific breakthroughs. "Topping the list," wrote Editor-in-Chief Floyd Bloom, "are those that promise hope for people infected with the human immunodeficiency virus [HIV]."

Among other developments, Bloom noted that, "The currently available therapies, based on inhibitors of enzymes essential for viral replication, have dramatically improved the outlook for many patients." Time magazine named an AIDS researcher and physician its "Man of the Year" for 1996 and highlighted his use of the new protease inhibitors in "cocktails" with other drugs to treat AIDS patients.

The company I work for was the first to win FDA approval for one of these new drugs. I'm sure that the makers of the other new AIDS drugs are proud of their contributions as well.

Let's not confuse that pride in this significant step forward with the idea that we have a cure. The pharmaceutical industry has made genuine progress with these new pharmaceuticals. They've helped produce a real improvement in therapy. They represent hope for many AIDS patients. But people are still suffering. People are still dying.

We still do not have a cure.

Roche Laboratories has been working with groups like AIDS Walk Orange County since the early '80s. We in the pharmaceutical industry could never have made this progress by ourselves. Along with AIDS-treating physicians and researchers, AIDS Walk Orange County and organizations like it have made many significant contributions. Their continued success is crucial to our society's collective fight and eventual victory against AIDS. The irony is that in some ways the progress we are making creates even more need to support these groups. Patients are getting better and living longer, and that means they need services longer. When potential donors see a lot of headlines proclaiming the possibility of a cure, it means groups like AIDS Walk Orange County have a tougher time convincing people of the need to continue contributing.

That need is very real. Since AIDS was first discovered about 15 years ago, the World Health Organization estimates that more than 6.4 million people have died from it worldwide.

The beautiful thing about AIDS Walk Orange County is that it thinks of AIDS in terms of people. It promotes prevention aggressively and it supports organizations that provide case management, food, counseling, housing, legal assistance and many other total services to hundreds of people affected by AIDS in Orange County every day.

Remember we don't have a cure.

Remember we are still at war with AIDS.

Remember, AIDS Walk Orange County today at UC Irvine. And remember other community groups like it that still need our support. They can make a real difference, but only with our help.

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