New CDC Director Pledges to Take on AIDS and Opioid Epidemics

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Days after being tapped to helm the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Robert Redfield predicted the AIDs epidemic can be defeated within the next three to seven years and the challenges of the opioid crisis can also be brought “to its knees.”

Redfield, a longtime HIV researcher, was named the 18th director of the CDC following the January resignation of former CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald left after less than one year at the post due to issues with her personal finances that created a conflict of interest.

Redfield made his bold prediction regarding AIDS during a meeting with the CDC staff on Thursday. He told CDC researchers and employees that they should pursue “the possible,” STAT News reported. That possibility includes an ending of the AIDS epidemic. During his talk with the staff, Redfield said the possible does include curbing the epidemic. He said it was possible if the CDC put its mind to it,” STAT said.

While drug developers have yet to come up with an effective HIV vaccine, Redfield said the tools to treat the epidemic and prevent its spread exist in the United States. Some of those tools include the use of condoms and “broader use of the antiviral drugs” that can prevent infection in those who are at risk of being infected, STAT said.

While no vaccine has been approved in the United States, there have been advances in helping HIV patients control their disease.

In February Gilead Sciences scored approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its triple combination HIV treatment, Biktarvy. The newly approved medicine is indicated as a complete regimen to treat HIV-1 in adults who haven’t been treated with antiretrovirals. Biktarvy is a combination of bictegravir 50mg/emtricitabine 200mg/tenofovir alafenamide 25mg, or BIC/FTC/TAF.

Earlier this month the FDA green lit Trogarzo (ibalizumab), the first HIV-1 inhibitor for patients with multi-drug resistant HIV-1. Trogarzo, which was co-developed by TaiMed Biologics and Theratechnologies, provides a new treatment for about 25,000 HIV patients who are classified as multi-drug resistant.

Citing the most recent statistics available, Redfield said approximately 40,000 people were infected with HIV in 2016. Of the 1.2 million people at risk of contracting HIV, Redfield said only 10 to 20 percent of people are using pre-exposure prophylaxis, STAT said in its report.

According to federal statistics, there are more than 1.1 million people in the United States who are living with HIV. The government information said one in seven are unaware they have the disease.

In addition to HIV, Redfield also addressed the ongoing opioid crisis. Redfield said the spike in opioid-related deaths is "the public health crisis of our time," the Associated Press reported. Redfield said it was important for the CDC to track the epidemic and get help to addicts.

Earlier this month a CDC report showed a surge of overdose data over a 15 month period between July 2016 and September 2017. Increases in overdoses increased about 30 percent in men and 24 percent in women. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 116 Americans die daily from opioid overdoses.

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