A Way To Lock Out Aids?

Labs are working on treatments to foil HIV's use of cellular receptors

For Matthew Sharp, the news last year of breakthroughs in AIDS drugs was bittersweet. With great fanfare, researchers had announced in late 1996 and early 1997 that new protease inhibitors, combined with older drugs, reduced the blood levels of the deadly virus to below the limits of detection. Some scientists even dared hope that the drugs, which target one particular viral enzyme, would offer a cure. But Sharp's own experience told him that the new drugs wouldn't work for everyone. The first one he tried failed. Another knocked his virus level down but after a year, "it started coming back," Sharp recalls. Now, a third protease inhibitor appears to be holding the virus in check--but it's still detectable in his blood. The 41-year-old outreach coordinator for San Francisco General Hospital's AIDS program and ACT UP activist lives in constant fear that HIV will flare up again. "We need new targets and new drugs," he says.

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