Monday, November 16, 2009

NIAID Director Fauci on H1N1, AIDS, Vaccines and Drugs

The Very Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III

On Sunday, November 15, 2009 The Very Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III interviewed Anthony S. Fauci, in Washington’s National Cathedral in the weekly Forum series of conversations on issues at the intersection of faith and public life linked here at

Anthony Fauci, M.D.

Since 1984, Dr. Fauci has directed the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). He holds numerous honors and awards, 35 honorary doctorates, the National Medal of Science and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He is a leading world expert on emerging and infectious diseases.

During the conversation Dr. Fauci recommended the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website linked here as the most useful up-to-date resource for consumers on medical issues.

This wide-ranging discussion explored the origins and current status of the 2009 H1N1 influenza, vaccinations for this flu and vaccinations in general. Valuable information came straight from America’s leading medical expert on HIV/AIDS,  bio-terrorism and other subjects related to emerging and infectious diseases.

“The Doctor is Here Today”

H1N1 is a pandemic that started in the U.S. in April 2009 and came out first in California, Texas and the country of Mexico and has now spread to over 200 countries around the world.

A vaccine was found almost immediately, and is gradually being distributed. States distribute it through pharmacies, schools and businesses according to their laws. The gap between supply and demand is finally closing, Dr. Fauci says. It is a  relatively mild to moderate pandemic. Impacting pregnant women and young children and spreading quickly, it is thought that older people may have more immunity to this virus. The bird flu spread more slowly than H1N1 from human to human but was more deadly.

There have been American pandemics in 1918 (the worst so far), 1957 and 1968, wherever humans have encroached on the environment.

Dr. Fauci says that the CDC’s purpose is surveillance. It is the radar screen to discover whether viruses are new and dangerous. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) does research to develop drugs and vaccines.

He says that it can be difficult to get governmental support for threats before they becomes realities. The discussion later returns to this important topic when Dr. Fauci says that tuberculosis and malaria (which are diseases of foreign countries and relatively inexpensive to treat with effective drugs) require moral, physical and global commitment. The American government currently focuses on curing rarer diseases with support from huge budgets, he says.

“Science is Knowledge and Knowledge is the Way Forward” - Dr. Anthony Fauci

On the subject of AIDS, Dr. Fauci outlined the fascinating history of the disease and treatment so far, which can be seen and heard on the video, and says that 6.5% of African-Americans in Washington, D.C. are currently infected. The infected in D.C. alone is a number greater than the top 20 African countries! The problem is here in America, he says, for intertwining sociological reasons. President Obama’s Global Health Initiative is continuing with the effort, but the number of AIDS cases continues to rise.

Dr. Fauci says that significant progress has been made. Drugs are keeping people alive, but they are needed for the remainder of the lives of the infected because the virus integrates into genes. The survival rate has increased from 26 weeks to an astonishing 50 years. The drug treats rather than cures the disease, but the process is down to one drug a day from 28 pills 7 times a day. He says having side effects of the drugs are better than leaving the virus untreated.

What Can We Do?

Dr. Fauci suggests the general public should:

1. Educate our young well in science
2. Get correct information by checking the CDC website
3. Don’t over-react to rumors
4. Make decisions based on facts

Are vaccines harmful? Dr. Fauci emphasizes that there is no doubt that the risk of sickness is greater than the risk of the vaccine. Spreading the sickness to others is a selfish risk if the vaccination is not taken.

Are new diseases emerging? Dr. Fauci mentions SARS and West Nile as recent new ones. West Nile existed for centuries in Africa before appearing here recently.

On bio-terrorism: nature causes the worst pandemics.

Dr. Fauci says that prevention is important and that America has a moral obligation to partners in the developing world to give treatment.

The National Cathedral does not request, sanction or acknowledge this post. The recording of the conversation should be consulted for verification purposes. I apologize for any mistakes or inaccuracies entered herein as they are entirely my own. This post is merely designed to be a helpful summary of the discussion.

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