This doctor saw AIDS firsthand in its darkest hour. Now he's helping make an HIV vaccine.

Dr. Anthony Fauci remembers the first AIDS patient he ever met.

Fauci at a conference in 2015. Photo from Bluerasberry/Wikimedia Commons.

It was 1981. A young man walked into Fauci's office. He was very sick and getting worse. Among his other maladies, an opportunistic infection was attacking his retinas — the man was going blind right in front of Fauci. But there wasn't anything Fauci could do for him.


At the time, doctors didn't even know what AIDS was. It would be a year before the term was even invented.

"It was a very painful and very frustrating because, you know, when you're a physician you're trained as a healer," said Fauci. But he couldn't heal this young man. The patient eventually died of the disease.

"That was the first of several thousand patients I've seen over the last 35 years," Fauci said.

But Fauci didn't give up.

Now, more than 30 years after Fauci met that patient, we may be well on the way to stopping AIDS, thanks to a new vaccine.

Photo from Mujahid Safodien/AFP/Getty Images.

Today, Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). They work to treat and prevent a wide range of diseases, including HIV/AIDS.

Thanks to the work of the NIAID and a whole host of other doctors, scientists, and organizations, our relationship to HIV/AIDS has completely changed since the early '80s. We can track its movements, prevent its spread, and use drugs to de-fang it once it's in the body.

But a vaccine — that holy grail of medicine — has remained elusive. So far, at least.

All that might change, though. A new HIV vaccine trial, known as HVTN 702, has just started, supported in part by Fauci and the NIAID. It's the most hopeful trial yet, based on an attempt from 2009 that lowered HIV infections rates by about 30%.

That first try was exciting, but it wasn't quite good enough to distribute, so Fauci and his team are hoping that this new trial could be the kicker.

For the site of the drug trial, the scientists chose South Africa, a nation that's been hit especially hard by HIV.

A Cape Town pharmacist checks documents on a fridge holding the vaccine. Photo by AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam.

Fauci and the NIAID aren't the only ones working on this. Dr. Gita Ramjee is the director of South African Medical Research Council’s HIV Prevention Research Unit. She's been working on HIV prevention for years.

Ramjee explained that the location of the trial is significant. Worldwide, HIV/AIDS affects about 37 million people. 7 million of those cases are in South Africa. The country sees about 1,000 new infections every day, and women are especially at risk.

"In Southern Africa, the face of the epidemic is a woman's face," said Ramjee. That's partly due to biological factors, but also social ones. Women don't always have the power to negotiate condom use with their partner, for example, and there may be stigma around getting preventive care.

Ramjee is one of the scientists who has been trying hardest to help these women for years. She joined the vaccine push because she wanted to explore new ways to help people prevent infection and because she's seen the costs of HIV/AIDS far too many times.

"Seeing these women in person, seeing a 16- or 18-year-old already coming to the clinic HIV-positive, it's really, really heartbreaking," said Ramjee.

That's why it's encouraging to see just how big this trial is. South Africa's response recruited over 5,000 volunteers to take part.

One of the trial's 5,400 volunteers at an event in Soshanguve, South Africa. Photo from Mujahid Safodien/AFP/Getty Images.

As part of this latest trial, South Africa enrolled 5,400 sexually active men and women. Half will get the vaccine, half will get a placebo. All will be offered established HIV prevention methods.

The trials will test the efficacy of the vaccine, and they'll also test for any possible side effects. The first patient was enrolled on Oct. 26, 2016. Results are expected in late 2020.

Fauci and Ramjee aren't making any predictions just yet, but both noted how huge an even moderate win could be.

Photo from Mujahid Safodien/AFP/Getty Images.

"Having a vaccine, even if it's 50% efficacious, it's going to add to the toolbox that we have," said Ramjee.

Existing treatment and prevention methods such as condom use or vaginal rings have been able to take the edge off the infection rate, but they haven't been able to completely reverse the disease's trajectory. But immunization is a powerful tool, and added to our repertoire — well, that could be what finally tips the scales. It could be, as both Fauci and Ramjee said, the final nail in HIV's coffin.

Yes, this trial could fail, but even if it doesn't, it's heartening to talk to folks who will keep going until one does. Research is, after all, a learning process.

"Irrespective of what the results are — positive or negative or moderate — we're going to learn a lot," Ramjee said.

That's pretty cool. And on the cusp of this huge trial, it's also worth celebrating just how far we've come since the virus first appeared.

Fauci still sees HIV patients in the very same room where he first met that first patient more than 30 years ago. He said the advancements in HIV/AIDS care he's seen has been nothing short of breathtaking.

HIV/AIDS was once a death sentence. Today, with the right care, people can live long, happy, healthy, essentially normal lives. And we continue to see amazing strides in care, even now.

"It's been a tremendous, extraordinary evolution," he said.

Heroes
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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

Cities

The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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