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amfAR's CEO on Bankrolling a Cure for HIV

As the world marks 30 years of HIV devastating lives, homes, and nations, the CEO of amfAR looks to make sure the virus doesn't reach age 40.

BY Michelle Garcia

December 01 2011 4:00 AM ET

Recently amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, announced a new round of grants and fellowships totaling $2.1 million, with $1.6 million going strictly toward cure-focused research. Thirteen grants ranging between $120,000 and $125,000 were awarded to research teams in locations including Australia, Sweden, San Francisco, and Baltimore.

The organization's CEO, Kevin Robert Frost, told HIV Plus magazine that the effort to find a cure has been underfunded in recent years. Now amfAR is spending about 60% of its research funding on finding a cure.

"I think only now are we starting to see that catch up with initiatives from the National Institutes of Health," he said.

The aim for the new funds will focus on understanding how, where, and why HIV persists within infected people even while they are on prescribed medication. Frost said one of the angles being evaluated is the differences in the way HIV is transmitted in various parts of the world, especially in trying to understand transmission among men who have sex with men in countries that tend to be dismissive of or even hostile toward homosexuality.

Some studies will focus on isolating infected cells in order to determine how they function and replicate. The new funds will also help researchers employ the latest technological advances, such as laser dissection techniques and cell-regeneration drugs. Although it may prove difficult to determine how and where HIV-infected cells hide in the body, the newly funded research is promising, Frost said. "As we keep uncovering new information about the virus, we're increasingly confident that we will be able to find a cure for HIV/AIDS in our lifetime," he said.

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