More than 25 years ago, an announcement was made that a doctor from the National Cancer Institute had isolated the virus that caused acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS. That same announcement said that a vaccine for AIDS would be available for testing before the 1990s.
Here we are today. What happened to that vaccine that was supposed to be around 20 years ago? We've seen the devastating effect of AIDS and the lives that it has destroyed around the world. But many dedicated people haven't given up just yet.
Research is being done every day, around the world, at places like the Chicago Developmental Center for AIDS Research.
Started just over a year ago, the Chicago D-CFAR is a consortium between, Rush University Medical Center, the University of Illinois at Chicago and Cook County Health and Hospitals System. The three work together to further AIDS research through interdisciplinary interaction.
"It's establishing a new collaboration that wouldn't have existed otherwise," says Dr. Robert Bailey, co-director of Chicago D-CFAR who is based at UIC.
"We really are an interactive group," says Chicago D-CFAR's director, Dr. Alan Landay, who works out of Rush. "It's very effective."
This cross-fertilization of fields has allowed the doctors learn more about the disease in specific populations. Landay says that, in Chicago, two areas of growing interest are the effects of AIDS in women as well as the effect our AIDS in Cook County's incarcerated population.
"We have a very good patient population to draw from," says Landay, "and they're diversified."
Whether they go in with the disease or come out with it, those who are serving time are vulnerable and at high risk of contraction. The Chicago D-CFAR is bringing prison administration and researchers together to try to identify new research initiatives.
"You want to get them into therapy right away," says Landay. "I think Chicago is one of the unique places to do that."
The Chicago D-CFAR also goes global. For years, Bailey has been doing research on the effects of circumcision on AIDS. The doctor says that research has shown that subjects who have been circumcised are less likely to acquire human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. So, for the last four years, Bailey has been traveling to Africa to educate people about not only the safety and acceptability of circumcision but also the behaviors that need to come with the procedure. Bailey says that he wants to make sure people understand that a circumcision is not a natural condom.
Both Bailey and Landay have similar reasons for doing what they're doing.
"My goal is to reduce misery and save lives," says Bailey.
"I've been doing AIDS research for 27 years," says Landay. "The drive I have is to see tremendous advances."
And, according to the doctor, those advances might not be too far off.
"People are mentioning the ‘c' word for the first time," says Landay. "We're talking, for the first time ever, about a cure for HIV."