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.

True
Frito-Lay

Did you know one in five families are unable to provide everyday essentials and food for their children? This summer was also the hungriest on record with one in four children not knowing where their next meal will come from – an increase from one in seven children prior to the pandemic. The effects of COVID-19 continue to be felt around the country and many people struggle to secure basic needs. Unemployment is at an all-time high and an alarming number of families face food insecurity, not only from the increased financial burdens but also because many students and families rely on schools for school meal programs and other daily essentials.

This school year is unlike any other. Frito-Lay knew the critical need to ensure children have enough food and resources to succeed. The company quickly pivoted to expand its partnership with Feed the Children, a leading nonprofit focused on alleviating childhood hunger, to create the "Building the Future Together" program to provide shelf-stable food to supplement more than a quarter-million meals and distribute 500,000 pantry staples, school supplies, snacks, books, hand sanitizer, and personal care items to schools in underserved communities.

Keep Reading Show less
ZACHOR Foundation

"What's 'the Holocaust'?" my 11-year-old son asks me. I take a deep breath as I gauge how much to tell him. He's old enough to understand that prejudice can lead to hatred, but I can't help but feel he's too young to hear about the full spectrum of human horror that hatred can lead to.

I wrestle with that thought, considering the conversation I recently had with Ben Lesser, a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor who was just a little younger than my son when he witnessed his first Nazi atrocity.

It was September of 1939 and the Blitzkrieg occupation of Poland had just begun. Ben, his parents, and his siblings were awakened in their Krakow apartment by Nazi soldiers who pistol-whipped them out of bed and ransacked their home. As the men with the shiny black boots filled burlap sacks with the Jewish family's valuables, a scream came from the apartment across the hall. Ben and his sister ran toward the cry.

They found a Nazi swinging their neighbors' baby upside down by its legs, demanding that the baby's mother make it stop crying. As the parents screamed, "My baby! My baby!" the Nazi smirked—then swung the baby's head full force into the door frame, killing it instantly.

This story and others like it feel too terrible to tell my young son, too out of context from his life of relative safety and security. And yet Ben Lesser lived it at my son's age. And it was too terrible—for anyone, much less a 10-year-old. And it was also completely out of context from the life of relative safety and security Ben and his family had known before the Nazi tanks rolled in.

Keep Reading Show less
True

In 1945, the world had just endured the bloodiest war in history. World leaders were determined to not repeat the mistakes of the past. They wanted to build a better future, one free from the "scourge of war" so they signed the UN Charter — creating a global organization of nations that could deter and repel aggressors, mediate conflicts and broker armistices, and ensure collective progress.

Over the following 75 years, the UN played an essential role in preventing, mitigating or resolving conflicts all over the world. It faced new challenges and new threats — including the spread of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, a Cold War and brutal civil wars, transnational terrorism and genocides. Today, the UN faces new tensions: shifting and more hostile geopolitics, digital weaponization, a global pandemic, and more.

This slideshow shows how the UN has worked to build peace and security around the world:

1 / 12

Malians wait in line at a free clinic run by the UN Multidimensional Integrated Mission in Mali in 2014. Over their 75 year history, UN peacekeepers have deployed around the world in military and nonmilitary roles as they work towards human security and peace. Here's a look back at their history.

Photo credit: UN Photo/Marco Dormino

With many schools going virtual, many daycare facilities being closed or limited, and millions of parents working from home during the pandemic, the balance working moms have always struggled to achieve has become even more challenging in 2020. Though there are more women in the workforce than ever, women still take on the lion's share of household and childcare duties. Moms also tend to bear the mental load of keeping track of all the little details that keep family life running smoothly, from noticing when kids are outgrowing their clothing to keeping track of doctor and dentist appointments to organizing kids' extracurricular activities.

It's a lot. And it's a lot more now that we're also dealing with the daily existential dread of a global pandemic, social unrest, political upheaval, and increasingly intense natural disasters.

That's why scientist Gretchen Goldman's refreshingly honest photo showing where and how she conducted a CNN interview is resonating with so many.

Keep Reading Show less
via State of Deleware

Same-sex marriage is legal in America and these days 63% of all Americans support the idea. Ten years ago, it was still a controversial issue among Democrats, but in 2019, 79% say they support same-sex marriage.

The issue played a big role in the Democratic primary for the Delaware's House of Representatives 27th district race. On September 15, Eric Morrison defeated incumbent Earl Jacques in a landslide and gay rights was a central issue.

In 2013, Jaques voted against same-sex marriage and refused to vote yes or no on banning gay conversion therapy in the state. On the other hand, Morrison is a gay drag queen who performs under the name Anita Mann and is very progressive on LGBTQ issues.

Keep Reading Show less