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.

Joy

Man uses TikTok to offer 'dinner with dad' to any kid that needs one, even adult ones

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud.

Come for the food, stay for the wholesomeness.

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud. His TikTok channel is dedicated to giving people intimate conversations they might long to have with their own father, but can’t. The most popular is his “Dinner With Dad” segment.

The concept is simple: Clayton, aka Dad, always sets down two plates of food. He always tells you what’s for dinner. He always blesses the food. He always checks in with how you’re doing.

I stress the stability here, because as someone who grew up with a less-than-stable relationship with their parents, it stood out immediately. I found myself breathing a sigh of relief at Clayton’s consistency. I also noticed the immediate emotional connection created just by being asked, “How was your day?” According to relationship coach and couples counselor Don Olund, these two elements—stability and connection—are fundamental cravings that children have of their parents. Perhaps we never really stop needing it from them.


Keep Reading Show less
All photos from Pilllsbury used with permission

Pillsbury is partnering with non profit, Operation Homefront, to provide housing for veterans

It’s the dream of many veterans: a safe and swift return to the security of home – to a place where time can be spent with family while becoming part of a community and creating new memories. With the partnership of non-profit Operation Homefront, Pillsbury is helping give military families the opportunity to do just that.

For many of our American soldiers, the dream of making a comfortable return to civilian life is often dashed by harsh realities. Pew Research Center reports that 44% of veterans who have served since Sept 11, 2001 noted having a difficult time re-adjusting. From re-entering into the workforce to finding healthcare services, returning to civilian life can be a harrowing transition. While serving in the military is incredibly stressful, it also provides routine, structure and purpose that is not easily replicated in civilian life. Couple this with a lack of helpful resources for veterans, and the hope for a brighter future can be easily derailed.


However, some companies and organizations are stepping in to show support and provide resources. Operation Homefront, an organization dedicated to helping military families transition back to civilian life, launched its Transitional Homes for Veterans (THV) Program in 2018. The program places veteran families in safe, secure, rent-free single-family homes for a period of two-to-three years while providing financial coaching and training to reduce debt, increase savings, and prepare for independent home ownership. Since the THV’s inception, Operation Homefront has defrayed more than $500K in mortgage costs to military families.

Keep Reading Show less

TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

Keep Reading Show less