A new HIV treatment was approved for the public, and that's good news for everyone.

The Food and Drug Administration just approved a new treatment for HIV. Hooray!


Photo by Gilead Sciences, used with permission.


Descovy, a drug made by Gilead Sciences, is a combination of two already-approved drugs used to treat HIV-1, the most common type of HIV.

What's different about this drug? It can do its job effectively but only requires 1/10th the dose of a similar drug. That's great news for the bones and kidneys of people taking the medicine.

“As the first new HIV treatment backbone approved by the FDA in more than a decade, Descovy represents an important evolution in HIV care, " said Norbert Bischofberger, executive vice president of research and development and chief scientific officer at Gilead Sciences.

Now, it's no miracle drug. Descovy does come with strict warnings about certain side effects, and Gilead has yet to announce just how much it will cost.

But for now, file this under "good news"!

Photo by Gilead Sciences, used with permission.

Because even with its flaws, this drug is welcome news for the 1.2 million Americans living with HIV.

In the U.S. alone, around 50,000 new HIV infections occur each year. And nearly 1 in 8 people with the virus aren't aware they have it.

Thanks to scientific breakthroughs like this one, people with the virus can live healthier, longer lives. But economic and social challenges like poverty, lack of health care options, stigma, and homophobia prevent people from getting tested and/or receiving and continuing proper preventive measures or treatment.

While we celebrate announcements like this one about Descovy, it's crucial to also highlight prevention efforts and treatment access.

People gather for the World AIDS Day Vigil and Remembrance Walk to show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

One big breakthrough that's preventing new infections among the people with the greatest risk is PrEP.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis , or PrEP, is when individuals with a very high risk of contracting HIV (think someone with an HIV-positive partner or a partner using needle drugs) take HIV medicines every day to lower their odds of getting the virus.

Currently, a combination drug sold under the name Truvada is approved for this use, and studies show PrEP is effective at preventing infection when used correctly.

Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Gilead, the company behind Descovy, also makes Truvada. And they work to make sure their therapies and medications are accessible to people who are uninsured or unable to afford copays.

It's not all puppies and rainbows: Gilead is still a drug company, and drug companies are gonna drug company. But through patient-assistance programs and state and federal initiatives, medications like this are now available to more people than ever.

Activists protest the high price of medication on World AIDS Day. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

Whether it's groundbreaking treatments, targeted prevention, or accessibility, we're slowly but surely fighting back against HIV and AIDS.

We've come a long way since the beginning of the epidemic. And thanks to top-notch research, empathy, and an increase in funding and public awareness, we will never go back again.

A candlelight vigil for World Aids Day. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less