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AIDS was seen as a death sentence until powerful antiviral drugs were discovered. Now, a new generation of drugs is being developed to target COVID-19.
Vancouver biotech firm AbCellera is looking for a COVID-19 cure. Just as it was with HIV, the search for a treatment will be measured in months and years, not weeks, scientists say. (Ben Nelms/CBC)
Artist Tiko Kerr pulls down a large cardboard box from a shelf in his East Vancouver studio. It’s overflowing with empty pill bottles.
“These are my meds. This is what keeps me alive.”
The prominent artist was nearly killed by HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
In 2005, existing treatments were failing and the virus was running rampant in his bloodstream.
“I was putting my affairs in order; I didn’t have a lot of hope.”
He and other activists, backed by leading AIDS researcher, Dr. Julio Montaner, lobbied for access to experimental drugs in the hopes they would save Kerr and others on death’s doorstep.
They won the noisy, public battle and the drugs — later dubbed “the cocktail” — worked. Kerr’s viral load dropped dramatically within days.
Artist Tiko Kerr, who is living with HIV, is pictured in his studio in Vancouver. (Ben Nelms/CBC)
“You can’t kill a virus, but you can suppress it, and it’s what’s happened to me,” Kerr said of his HIV infection, which still requires daily doses of drugs.
The drugs are so effective, HIV is now undetectable in his system
Many viruses, including the common cold, can’t be cured, while some, such as hepatitis C can be eliminated with antiviral drugs.
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