Year in review

'I'm even thinking of buying a house with a 30-year mortgage ... what a concept!'

1996 added a new term to the everyday vocabulary of AIDS -- protease inhibitors. This new class of anti-viral drugs was so effective in early studies that scientists seemed to struggle not to sound too optimistic.

Early in the year, in record time, the FDA approved two protease inhibitors-- Ritonavir and Indinavir -- that dramatically reduce the amount of HIV in the blood. Combined with other anti-AIDS drugs in a so-called "triple drug therapy," Indinavir reduced HIV below detectable levels in all but one person in a study of 36 patients.

Protease inhibitors work by attacking the enzyme protease, used by the AIDS virus to multiply.

More research supporting the findings gave a hopeful glow to the AIDS Conference in Vancouver in July. Researchers trumpeted the results, but were cautious. No one knew yet how long the results would last. And there was also the high cost -- up to $20,000 a year in the United States -- and a demanding regimen that meant taking 20 pills on schedule every day.

Time Magazines's
Man of the Year

AIDS Researcher Dr. David Ho
AIDS Memorial Quilt service -- 880K QuickTime movie
Dr. Calvin Cohen of Harvard Medical School -- 119K AIFF or WAV sound

But there was no question the outlook of AIDS had changed, at least for the time being. Large urban hospitals estimated AIDS admissions were down 60 percent. And some young men in their 30s who once feared they wouldn't see 40, were now talking about the possibility of growing old.

"I'm even thinking of buying a house with a 30-year mortgage ... what a concept!" said Puck, a 34-year old San Francisco man with AIDS.

There are some who looked to the new therapy as a possible cure, but only more research will tell. To determine that, patients would have to be taken off the drugs, to see if the virus resurfaced.



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