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NIAID chief Anthony Fauci on a 2016 panel. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The AIDS epidemic could effectively end if the world could improve access to health care, encourage the use of antiretroviral drugs and prophylactics, and eliminate drug needle sharing, a U.S. public health official explained in a new conference Wednesday.

"If we only implemented the public health tools we have now, we could end the AIDS epidemic."
— Anthony Fauci, director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Why it matters: Roughly 40,000 new Americans become infected every year., with almost half being in the African-American population, particularly in men who have sex with other men.

Tackling AIDS through policy: Nations, including the U.S., need to address the problem of a lack of health care avaiable to all populations, including those who may feel stigmatized by their society. Eliminating needle sharing amongst drug users also would help reduce new infections, Fauci says.

Tackling AIDS through medicine: People need to be tested for HIV regularly, Fauci says. Those in a risk population should talk to their doctor about taking a pre-exposure prophylactic pill, called Truvada. Those already infected can take antiretroviral drugs that bring their viral levels so low that it's almost impossible to transmit the virus. Scientists are also working on an HIV vaccine, he says.

Meanwhile, the NIAID is hard at work preparing for the next flu season, Fauci says, because the last season "was the worst [seasonal flu] we've had in well over a decade."

  • A major problem, he says, is current seasonal flu vaccines do not work well enough, ranging from 10%–60% effectiveness.
  • "We've got to do better than that," he says,

The first iteration of a planned universal flu vaccine should be available in a couple years, he says. It will likely target the part of the virus that doesn't evolve quickly and will include multiple strains of the virus but not all — so will not be a "universal" vaccine initially.

  • For instance, Fauci says version 1.0 may target all of the H3N2 virus strains and version 2.0 may aim for both H3N2 and H1N1 strains.
  • The universal vaccine likely will work best in young children who have not yet been "imprinted" by a influenza virus, he adds.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - World

U.S. airstrike kills senior al-Qaeda leader in Syria, DOD says

A displacement camp near the village of Qah in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. Photo: Ahmad Al-Atrash/AFP via Getty Images

A U.S. airstrike in northwest Syria on Friday killed senior al-Qaeda leader Abdul Hamid al-Matar, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

Why it matters: Syria serves as a "safe haven" for the extremist group to plan external operations, according to U.S. Army Maj. John Rigsbee.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas convicted of campaign finance crimes

Lev Parnas, a former associate of then-President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida businessman Lev Parnas was convicted Friday on charges of conspiracy to make foreign contributions to political campaigns, according to multiple outlets.

Why it matters: Prosecutors said Parnas, then an associate of former President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, funneled over $150,000 from a Russian businessman into U.S. campaigns as part of an effort to land licenses in the U.S.'s legal cannabis industry.

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenges to Texas abortion law

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two cases challenging Texas' abortion law, which bans the procedure as soon as six weeks into pregnancy, but left the law in place in the meantime.

Why it matters: The court is moving extraordinarily fast on the Texas cases, compressing into just a few days a process that normally takes months. And that schedule means the court will take up Texas' ban a month before it hears another major abortion case — a challenge to Mississippi's own 2018 ban on abortions after 15 weeks.