Carolyn Robinson Wills

PhD Candidate, Molecular Pathogenesis and Therapeutics

In the 1970s and 1980s, millions of people were dying from an unknown disease. Many people and scientists speculated what might be killing all these people, but it wasn’t until 1983 that scientists identified HIV as the virus responsible for causing AIDS. Almost 10 years later in 1991 when Magic Johnson proclaimed that he had contracted HIV, it was still considered to be a death sentence.

There is no cure for HIV, but there are medications to treat HIV and reduce the amount of virus that our bodies must face which can prolong the time between contracting HIV and developing AIDS; however, these medications are very expensive and must be taken every day for the rest of the person’s life. That’s right, even Magic Johnson still has HIV, he just has been able to take medicines that keep the amount of virus so low that he hasn’t developed AIDS.

What makes this virus so difficult to beat? The virus has several ways that it can ‘undo’ things that the human body does to try to kill it. I am working on studying exactly how HIV does this and evaluating inhibitors that could one day be drug candidates for the treatment or cure of HIV.

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