Leading infectious diseases expert, Professor Sharon Lewin is the inaugural Director of the Doherty Institute. She is also a Professor of Medicine at The University of Melbourne and a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Practitioner Fellow.
She is also the Chief Investigator of a NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence (CRE), The Australian Partnership for Preparedness Research on Infectious Diseases Emergencies (APPRISE) that aims to bring together Australia’s leading experts in clinical, laboratory and public health research to address the key components required for a rapid and effective emergency response to infectious diseases.
The success of antiretroviral therapy has led some people to now ask whether the end of AIDS is possible. For patients who are motivated to take therapy and who have access to lifelong treatment, AIDS-related illnesses are no longer the primary threat, but a new set of HIV-associated complications have emerged, resulting in a novel chronic disease that for many will span several decades of life. Treatment does not fully restore immune health; as a result, several inflammation-associated or immunodeficiency complications such as cardiovascular disease and cancer are increasing in importance. Cumulative toxic effects from exposure to antiretroviral drugs for decades can cause clinically-relevant metabolic disturbances and end-organ damage. Concerns are growing that the multimorbidity associated with HIV disease could affect healthy ageing and overwhelm some health-care systems, particularly those in resource-limited regions that have yet to develop a chronic care model fully.
In view of the problems inherent in the treatment and care for patients with a chronic disease that might persist for several decades, a global effort to identify a cure is now underway. But what about those who are at risk: Sex workers, needle and drug users, medical workers? The project has sought to engage these people and communities in its aims to combat the virus, and to resort to education as a method with which to act against HIV and AIDS. Various methods currently hold great value in the anti HIV war, and these methods, as well as combinations of these methods, become tailorable to respective communities and geographical locations.