By Karen Hagberg
The Research Foundation to Cure AIDS (RFTCA) is a not-for-profit US corporation focused on developing a cure for AIDS. As chair of the board of RFTCA, I felt compelled to write something for this month’s issue of WestView News, which is focused on HIV/AIDS.
As some of you may have noted in the masthead on page two, Kambiz Shekdar, PhD, who is the founder and President of the RFTCA, also plays an editorial role at WestView, and he solicited articles for this entire issue. I have worked closely with Kambiz for a number of years. As a partner in a law firm in New York, I was involved in the formation of RFTCA as a 501(c)(3), and I have worked on many projects with Kambiz since that time. I have also served on the organization’s board for the past six years and, as of December 2018, I became chair of the board, a position I continue to hold. And as a New Yorker for the past 40 years, I have seen the devastation that being HIV positive can have on all segments of the population. As the chart from the CDC website shows, a vast and diverse number of citizens in the United States are affected by AIDS.
While there is now treatment, which is causing life-changing positive results for HIV-infected individuals, those within the HIV-positive population must learn about it, have access to it, and be able to afford it. And on a global perspective, treatment becomes more challenging. As noted in HIV.gov’s World AIDS Day 2020 statement, “The dual HIV and COVID-19 pandemics continue to reveal and exacerbate existing inequities and vulnerabilities in societies around the globe. The HIV gains that we were making together as a global community are especially at risk and we will need increased investment in HIV prevention programs to restore these gains, notably for young women and key populations.”
As the United Nations notes on its website at unaids.org, “Every week, around 5,500 young women aged 15-24 years become infected with HIV…. Women and girls accounted for about 48% of all new HIV infections in 2019. In sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls accounted for 59% of all new HIV infections.” On a global basis, the risk of acquiring HIV is: “…26 times higher among gay men and other men who have sex with men, 20 times higher among people who inject drugs, 30 times higher for sex workers, and 13 times higher for transgender people.” And advocacy groups are working hard to convince pharmaceutical companies to make those treatments available to those who cannot afford them.
RFTCA is engaged in research and technology to develop and make available a cure for AIDS. If successful, that cure will be made available worldwide to those who cannot afford treatment and those who have no treatment option.
We hope you will support our cause.
Karen Hagberg is the chair of the board of Research Foundation to Cure AIDS. You can learn more about RFTCA and support the organization at https://rftca.org/