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HIV discoverer says new drug won't end epidemic

Wednesday - 7/18/2012, 10:08am  ET

AP: eec242f0-b9c1-4924-a74b-ef21a3cec071
In this photo provided by the George W. Bush Presidential Center, former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura Bush stop to talk with people who have lined the hallways of the Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone, Botswana, on Thursday, July 5, 2012. The former president and his wife visited Africa for a week to promote a partnership between the George W. Bush Institute, the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, UNAIDS and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, that aims to fight cervical and breast cancer in sub-Saharan Africa. (AP Photo/George W. Bush Presidential Center, Shealah Craighead)

U.S. can be proud of what it's done for HIV/AIDS relief

Dr. Robert Gallo, UMd. biomedical researcher and co-discoverer of HIV

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WASHINGTON - A newly approved approach to combating the AIDS virus is not in itself a silver bullet, says one of the scientists who helped discover the rampant virus.

The FDA recently approved Truvada, a new pill that combines existing drugs to produce an effective preventative measure for those at high risk of contracting the disease, such as AIDS workers and the sexual partners and children of those who are infected.

Dr. Robert Gallo, director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, tells WTOP this milestone in controlling the disease that has claimed the lives of more than 30 million is only one step.

"I think it's going to help some individual cases, particularly in the nations that can afford it," he says, "but it will be a very particular intervention.

"I don't think it's going to end the epidemic."

It is unlikely this drug will make it to people all over the world who might get infected, Gallo says. Instead, it's important for aid workers and scientists to continue applying methods that can lower the infectiousness of individual people with HIV/AIDS, he says. Making them less likely to transmit the disease to others is key to controlling its proliferation.

Gallo says the U.S. should be proud of organizations like the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief -- founded under President George W. Bush and expanded by President Barack Obama -- for focusing on Africa and the Caribbean, where the spread of the disease is particularly dangerous.

Learn more about Truvada here.

Hear more of Gallo's take on fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS in the full audio at right.

WTOP's Paul D. Shinkman contributed to this report. Follow Paul and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)