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UNC hosts 13th annual HIV/AIDS symposium in honor of World AIDS Day

Doctors, nurses, research assistants and medical students gathered to listen to the latest information in HIV/AIDS research Thursday in honor of World AIDS Day.

UNC hosted the 13th annual HIV/AIDS symposium from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Bioinformatics building, with experts in the field.
“You get front row seats to cutting-edge HIV research,” said Michele Bailey, the program coordinator for the North Carolina AIDS Training and Education Center.

Bailey said about 200 people participated in the event over the course of the day.

The day was split into seven presentations focusing on prevention and the possibility of curing AIDS.

Daria Hazuda, a researcher at Merck Research Labs, presented on the solutions for how to treat the AIDS virus, which lingers in the body after treatment.

Prema Menezes, the organizer of the event, said this year is especially important because of recent breakthroughs at UNC.

“This has been a groundbreaking year of research for UNC, with the discovery that antiretroviral therapy can prevent transmission of the disease,” Menezes said.

Jenna Bone, a graduate student who works for UNC professor Victor Garcia-Martinez, presented research about treating HIV infections in mice carrying functioning human bones and organs.

The HIV virus persists in hidden reservoirs even after treatment, which is why no one with the virus has ever been cured, Bone said.

Garcia-Martinez — who came to UNC in 2009 — and his team of researchers are working to create a drug that will be able to completely remove the HIV virus from the body.

“World AIDS Day is a great way to get energized and receive new information about cutting-edge research that we may not get to hear or read about otherwise,” Menezes said.

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