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By Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

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Example text

In the years following Heckler’s announcement, it became increasingly clear that finding a cure would not be the straightforward task she had outlined. Nevertheless, research into treatments moved forward, and by 1987, the first AIDS drug, AZT, was approved for use by the FDA. This was soon joined by many other drugs; as of 2004, almost two dozen medications had been approved to treat HIV infection. Though none of these drugs cure HIV, they greatly increase patients’ survival time and improve their quality of life.

27 How patients respond to the cocktail therapies varies. Some patients on the new therapies have proven to be unable to tolerate the combination of powerful drugs; others get no benefit from the treatments. In a number of patients, however, the drug cocktail is so effective in eliminating HIV from the blood that doctors consider their patients in remission. According to Dr. ” 28 Some successes with drug cocktail treatments are dramatic. For example, in July 1995, thirty-seven-year-old Dan Cusick was told that an AIDS-related illness would probably kill him by October.

One such scientist is the previously mentioned Ho. As early as 1994, Ho tested his theory that patients who were treated early on in HIV infection—during clinical latency—could benefit more from combination therapy than the patients who usually receive these treatments—those who had already developed AIDS. For his study Ho chose twelve men whose helper T cell count had dropped below five hundred cells per milliliter of blood, but was still higher than the count of two hundred that signifies the onset of full-blown AIDS.

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