The Positive Side

Winter 2016 

Treatment Milestones

  • The first reports of what will become known as AIDS among gay men and people who use injection drugs.
  • French scientists, led by Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, identify the virus responsible for causing AIDS: HIV.
  • The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the first antiretroviral drug, AZT.
  • Vancouver activist Kevin Brown lobbies the Canadian government for access to AZT.
  • Canada’s Health Minister announces funding for a national AIDS strategy.
  • Canada’s Emergency Drug Release Program allows access to unapproved treatments for AIDS-related conditions.
  • It’s discovered that some people’s HIV has resistance to AZT even though they have never taken the drug. This means that drug-resistant HIV can be passed from person to person.
  • Researchers discover that AZT reduces the risk of HIV transmission from mother to child during pregnancy by two-thirds.
  • The FDA approves the first protease inhibitors, a new class of antiretroviral drugs.
  • Triple combination therapy—also known as highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) and later ART—becomes the standard treatment for HIV.
  • The number of HIV-related deaths drops substantially for the first time in Canada.
  • Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)—the use of HIV drugs by an HIV-negative person to prevent infection within 72 hours of being exposed to HIV—is pioneered.
  • A single dose of nevirapine is found to effectively reduce transmission from mother to child during pregnancy, leading to a dramatic drop in the number of babies born with HIV.
  • Atripla, the first 3-drugs-in-1 pill is approved.
  • Dr. Julio Montaner introduces the concept of treatment as prevention at the International AIDS Conference: widespread testing and ART for those who test positive, to improve a person’s quality of life and prevent transmission. This “test and treat” strategy, pioneered in BC, is now used in many jurisdictions worldwide.
  • UNAIDS calls for the implementation of programs to work toward the virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 2015.
  • The HPTN 052 trial shows that HIV treatment drastically reduces the risk of transmitting HIV.
  • The FDA approves the use of the HIV treatment drug Truvada for preventing HIV (pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP).
  • The PARTNER study reports that HIV treatment also reduces the risk of transmission among gay men.
  • The START study confirms that when a person starts HIV treatment when their CD4 count is high, they dramatically reduce the risk of developing serious illnesses and dying. This confirms that everyone should be offered treatment as soon as possible and causes treatment guidelines to be revised.