On Wednesday, Anthony Fauci was awarded the 2016 Global Health Award by the Gairdner Foundation in Canada. Fauci is an infectious disease expert and was given the award for his decade’s long work against HIV/AIDS. Fauci was one of the very first scientists to begin studying HIV when it was emerging in the U.S. in the 1980’s.

Anthony Fauci Winner Of 2016 Global Health Award

Under Fauci, the NIH supported various basic and clinical researches leading to the approval of more than 30 drugs by the FDA to treat HIV infection. In 2015 Fauci was found to be the 14th most cited scientist of all time on any field in the world.

In the 80’s when AIDS was first surfacing in the U.S., it was considered an epidemic but through Fauci’s efforts it has now turned into a chronic condition disease.

Fauci was the first scientist to open doors for six protest leaders who wanted more health support for AIDS during the Reagan Administration. Currently more than 1.2 million people are living with AIDS in the United States, but a majority of them can manage it with the aid of drugs developed by NAIAD under Fauci’s leadership.

Fauci is “one of the towering figures in understanding the natural history of HIV”, said John Dirks, president of the Gairdner Foundation. “Without him, we would not have made the overwhelming progress that we have made.”

“I foresaw that even though we didn’t know what the virus was, we were just seeing the tip of the iceberg”, says Fauci. “I had an ominous feeling it would explode into something huge for global health.”

Fauci has also been involved in combating AIDS around the world, specifically in Africa. In 2003 Fauci led the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Fauci’s work at PEPFAR had the biggest impact on the global fight against AIDS. PEPFAR was launched by President George W Bush and focused on preventing and treating HIV in southern Africa, the area bears the heaviest burden of HIV/AIDS.

About 66% of all new global infections are reported in Sub-Saharan Africa. PEPFAR has been described as the most important public health endeavor for a single disease in history, as it saved seven million lives in Africa. The Canada Gairdner Global Health Award stipulates a $100,000 CND award. It is given to scientists who have made major scientific advances with potential of an impact on health outcomes in the developing world.

Fauci has held the position of director at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) for the past three decades. During this time Fauci has relentlessly worked towards innovating and advancing treatments for HIV/AIDS.

One of the biggest contributions by Fauci was the discovery about the nature of HIV. Fauci found even when the disease seems clinically latent the virus is active. HIV remains active in the lymph nodes and keeps on slaying the immune system. The discovery led to the current framework of HIV/AIDS treatment; vigorous and long-term treatment.

Anthony S. Fauci holds an M.D. in ‘Immunology’ and was appointed as the director of NIAID in 1984. Dr. Fauci is also the chief of the Laboratory of Immunoregulation and his research includes work on HIV/AIDS, STDs, influenza, tuberculosis, malaria and infectious agents used in bio-terrorism attacks. In 2003 Fauci was hailed as the 10th most-cited scientist on HIV/AIDS globally and has been the author, co-author or editor in more than 1,280 scientific publications.

Research On HIV/AIDS

Fauci’s contributed to the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS by understanding how the virus destroys the immune system. Through NAIAD Fauci funded researches which led to the discovery of preventive vaccines and drugs. Fauci is still further researching the mechanisms and immune response of HIV.

The major areas of Fauci’s research are:

  • The mechanisms of HIV immune-pathogenesis at the cellular and molecular level
  • Regulation and differentiation mechanism of the human T- and B-cells
  • Gene expression at the cellular level involved in the activation of human T and B cells
  • Pathogenesis and treatment of diseases related to the immune system

PrEP:

PrEP is a pill given to people who do not have HIV but are at very high risk for getting the virus. The pill is given on a daily basis as a preventive measure and it greatly reduces the chances of getting HIV. PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) is an oral antiretroviral drug. PrEP has shown promising results, with a 43.8% reduction in risk of acquiring HIV, in homosexual and heterosexual men. PrEP was developed as a result of a study called iPrEx, sponsored by NIAID.

At the time Dr. Fauci was of the view that pre-exposure of antiretroviral drug prophylactically can minimize the chances of HIV acquisition among homosexual men.

Some other oral antiretroviral drugs used in various combinations against HIV formulated under the leadership of Fauci are:

  • Atazanavir
  • Didanosine
  • Efavirenz
  • Emtricitabine/Tenofovir disoproxil fumarate
  • Lamivudine
  • Lopinavir/ritonavir or Lopinavir/Ritonavir
  • Nevirapine
  • Ritonavir
  • Stavudine
  • Tenofovir disoproxil fumarate
  • Zidovudine/Lamivudine

HIV Vaccine

In 2003 the first HIV vaccine showing promising results was funded by NAIAD in Thailand with a 31% success rate. The study was called the Thai Phase III HIV vaccine study and the vaccine called RV144, was tested on 16,000 consenting adults in Thailand.

At the time Dr. Fauci stated the findings are an important step forward in the research of HIV vaccine, since for the first time a vaccine has prevented infection. Additional research on the vaccine is necessary to reduce risk of HIV but the advancement is encouraging.

PEPFAR

PEPFAR short for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief was an African aid plan launched in 2003. The program outline included treating HIV-infected women with an antiretroviral drug called ‘nevirapine’. The drug blocked the transmission of the virus from pregnant or nursing mother to child. The program aimed to treat one million women annually to decrease the number of children born or infected with HIV by 40%.

PEPFAR provided prevention, care, and treatment services at a full-care hospital along with connected health centers and posts. The antiretroviral therapy started at the main hospital but progressive treatment was shifted to outposts for the convenience of people.

The Gairdner Foundation has also awarded another HIV researcher Frank Plummer in 2016 with the Canada Gairdner Wightman Award. Plummer is a microbiologist at the University of Manitoba and is known for his research on HIV transmission in Africa. According to Dirks, the connection between the awards is a complementary coincidence.