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Remembering the forgotten epidemic

Dartmouth Medical School faculty member Charles Wira, Ph.D., brought together leading researchers in AIDS transmission and prevention from around the world for a conference at Dartmouth in late June. The National Institutes of Health funded the gathering, which featured two and a half days of by-invitation-only scientific sessions, as well as a half-day forum on July 2, open to the public, titled "The Forgotten Epidemic: AIDS in the 21st Century."

The scientific sessions—which featured microbiologists, pediatricians, immunologists, obstetrician-gynecologists, physiologists, and civic leaders on the AIDS front—focused on mucosal immunity in the male and female reproductive tracts and its role in preventing the transmission of HIV.

"For every two people worldwide who are receiving antiretroviral drugs to combat HIV and AIDS, there are five new cases of the disease.

This alarming statistic may come as news to some in this country," reported the local newspaper, the Valley News, shortly before the conference. "'We're losing the battle,' said Charles Wira, a professor of physiology at Dartmouth Medical School. . . . 'It is an acute, life-threatening disease destroying men, women and children,' he said in an interview in his office at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Approximately 25 million people worldwide have died from the disease, and 34 million worldwide are infected. Of those 34 million, about half are women."

The goal of the conference was to raise awareness about those facts—to dispel the notion that AIDS is a disease that affects primarily gay men and those who use intravenous drugs. One of the speakers at the public forum, ob-gyn Susan Cu-Uvin, M.D., of Brown University, noted that the infection rate in Washington, D.C., now rivals that of South Africa.

To watch the welcoming addresses at the beginning of the scientific sessions, or the talks in the public forum, click below and then click on the "Launch Event" link for either the July 2 public session or the June 30 welcome to the scientific sessions.

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