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Flashback "A True Miracle"

November 30, 2010

“The people who were on disability got out of bed and started looking for things to do. And you know, the funerals stopped and the inpatient units emptied out. It was a true miracle.”
Dr. Martin Markowitz, Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center

In the wake of last week's startling announcement that daily use of Truvada, an antiretroviral therapy pill, helps prevent HIV infection, here's a look back to the 1996 discovery of combination therapy and how it works. The video is from our 2006 miniseries The Age of AIDS, which tells the global story of the worst pandemic of modern times.

The miraculous "triple cocktail" treatment seemed to signal a new era in which AIDS was no longer a fatal disease. But the high price of the drugs meant they were unaffordable to patients in developing nations. Even today -- despite high-profile efforts to lower prices and expand treatment -- only 5 million of the 33 million people affected with the HIV virus worldwide are taking retroviral drugs, according to the 2010 UNAIDS Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic.

The question of who will pay is rearing its head again in the wake of the announcement about Truvada. According to The New York Times, it would cost "tens of billions of dollars" to supply the drug to the hundreds of millions of people at risk. Truvada costs between $12,000 and $14,000 per year in the United States though generic versions cost as little as 40 cents per pill in developing nations. In the United States, the drug is paid for by insurance companies or Medicare (the poor are covered under the Ryan White Act) but none have policies about giving it to healthy people as a preventative measure.

Explore much more on The Age of AIDS website, including:

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