Experts: World AIDS Day | December 1

Published: 29 November 2023

Every year, on December 1, the world commemorates World AIDS Day. People around the world unite to show support for people living with and affected by HIV and to remember those who lost their lives to AIDS. (United Nations)

Here are some experts from McGill University who can comment on this topic:

Anne Gatignol, Full Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Experimental Medicine

HIV infection can be treated, but not cured. A proof-of-principle that HIV can be cured has been provided by five HIV patients with blood cancers who received a bone marrow transplant from naturally HIV resistant donors and have been off drug therapy and HIV free for several years. Due to high risks with the transplant and the lack of compatible resistant donors, this procedure cannot be used for most people living with HIV. Several strategies have been elaborated to eliminate the virus from the body, including targeting reservoir cells, immunotherapy, and gene therapy. Gene therapy would use a person's own bone marrow cells modified to make them resistant to HIV.”

Anne Gatignol is Full Professor in the Department of Medicine and an Associate Member of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. She investigates virus-cell interactions to understand innate immune pathways during HIV infection. Her lab also develops RNA therapies against HIV that could be used in a gene therapy setting.

anne.gatignol [at] (English, French)

Chen Liang, Full Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Experimental Medicine

As much as we are relieved, the end of the once devastating COVID-19 pandemic does not free us from the HIV/AIDS plague. With 40.2 million lives lost to AIDS-related illness since the start of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, 39 million people still live with this incurable virus. This number will only continue to rise with over one million new HIV infections every year. It is time to re-focus on HIV/AIDS, work together to prevent new infections, keep improving access to life-saving and high-quality antiretroviral drugs, and seek a cure to bring normal life back to the millions of people who are living with HIV, so the AIDS pandemic will soon be brough to an end.”

Chen Liang is a Full Professor in the Department of Medicine and a Senior Investigator at the Lady Davis Institute of the Jewish General Hospital. His research focuses on host innate immune responses to viral infections including HIV-1 and SARS-CoV-2.

chen.liang [at] (English)

Claudia Mitchell, Distinguished James McGill Professor, Department of Integrated Studies in Education

The theme for this year’s World Aids Day is ‘Let Communities Lead’. It is a theme that is long overdue but one that is not new to AIDS activists. As part of my work, I recently met up with 14 of the former young people who had been very involved in the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa. As part of that campaign and as central to the activist work they were doing in schools in the early 2000s when I first met them, collective action was critical. Now in their mid-thirties, each of them in one way or another is still talking about the significance of relationships and how relationships play a central role in staying alive. Recognizing the role that communities can play both in terms of advocacy and support is key.”

Claudia Mitchell is a Distinguished James McGill Professor in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education and the Director of the Institute of Human Development and Well-being. Her research in relation to youth, gender and sexuality, girls’ education, teacher identity, and critical areas of international development linked to gender and HIV and AIDS uses visual and other participatory methodologies.

claudia.mitchell [at] (English)

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