Over the years, Ryan Kavanaugh has pledged his support to a wide range of health care organizations, ranging from leading medical care providers to researchers working on some of the most pressing medical issues. One of the organizations that Ryan Kavanaugh has supported is amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research. While great strides have been made, especially in recent years, toward making HIV/AIDS a thing of the past, the issue continues to plague many communities in the United States and in other countries around the world.
amfAR works diligently to identify not only the scientific issues at hand, but also the policy problems that feed into the spread of the disease. Since its inception, the organization has invested more than $450 million in various programs to treat and prevent the disease in communities across the globe. This funding has made a major and lasting impact on the international approach to ending HIV/AIDS, while also saving the lives of countless individuals in the process. Here is a look at some of the key accomplishments that amfAR has made in eradicating HIV/AIDS and forging a better tomorrow.
- Advancements in the Prevention of HIV/AIDS
Much of amfAR’s work has focused on preventing the spread of HIV around the world. One of the major issues that researchers faced was the transmission of HIV from mother to infant during birth. The organization undertook research that ultimately led to the creation of an antiretroviral drug that blocks transmission, which has all but eradicated mother-to-infant infections. The organization has also spearheaded other unique efforts to reduce infection, such as the creation of microbicides, creams, and gels that prevent sexual transmission during sexual intercourse.
The other major route of new infections involves the use of dirty needles. In order to address this problem, amfAR backed research showing how syringe exchange programs could reduce rates of HIV transmission by half without increasing rates of illegal drug use. The organization continues to support a national survey of syringe exchange programs with the results appearing in a Centers for Disease Control publication.
amfAR is currently supporting a number of different vaccine concepts that could prevent HIV transmission, as well as DNA vaccines designed to slow the progress of the disease.
- Achievements in Domestic HIV/AIDS Policy
Since its inception, amfAR has recognized the importance of lobbying for policies that will make ending HIV/AIDS a priority. The organization played a key role in getting a number of different pieces of legislation passed, including the Ryan White CARE Act of 1990, which continues to provide federal funding to states with a large HIV-positive population, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which protected the rights of the HIV-positive population. In addition, the organization supported the Hope Act of 1988 and the NIH Revitalization Act of 1993, which strengthened federal efforts to end the AIDS epidemic.
The public policy issues spearheaded by amfAR concentrate on a wide range of issues, including discrimination against HIV-positive people, the need for early medical intervention, and financing the cost of HIV/AIDS treatment. The organization has also led research on the intersection of HIV and substance abuse, as well as ethical issues surrounding privacy and public health. Moreover, amfAR has played a key role in convincing Congress that an AIDS drug assistance program was necessary for individuals with low incomes.
- Fortifying the Global Fight Against HIV/AIDS
Much of amfAR’s international efforts have focused on the HIV/AIDS crisis in Asia. The organization created the first observational database on the continent. The database helped to monitor disease progress and treatment outcomes to create a baseline for improving treatment standards. Since then, the organization has launched a multipronged effort to end HIV/AIDS in Asia called TREAT Asia. The initiative connects a number of research institutions, hospitals, and clinics across the continent. Even prior to TREAT Asia, amfAR worked on that continent through one of the first HIV prevention education programs in Nepal, which it helped to found in collaboration with 17 nongovernmental agencies.
Outside of Asia, amfAR has supported studies in Kenya that aim to improve understanding of how HIV transmission occurs and to challenge some of the cultural assumptions that lead to new infections. In addition, the organization endorses the GMT Initiative, which supports HIV advocacy and awareness efforts.
- New Treatments Introduced Through amfAR’s Efforts
At the heart of amfAR’s research is HIV/AIDS treatment. The research supported by the organization has largely changed the landscape of HIV/AIDS treatment. For example, the development of protease inhibitors revolutionized HIV/AIDS treatment when they were first introduced and significantly increased life expectancy for people with AIDS. The organization is also behind the compound that hit the market as Fuzeon and launched a whole new class of drugs called fusion inhibitors. Another drug, Maraviroc, arose from amfAR’s studies on the role that cell protein CCR5 plays in HIV infection. In addition, amfAR scientists pioneered a new technique for detecting viral RNA that is still used to measure viral load and monitor the progress of an HIV infection.