HIV is no longer an automatic death sentence

MEGAN THOMPSON: In the early 1980s, French scientist Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, one of only a few women at the prestigious Pasteur Institute in Paris, began seeing patients infected with a mysterious virus.

FRANÇOISE BARRÉ-SINOUSSI: The feeling that we had is really to rush. It was a lot of pressure you know because of course we had already some evidence that this virus was transmitted by blood, by sexual roots and from mother to child.

MEGAN THOMPSON: In 1983, Barré-Sinoussi and her mentor discovered HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS. She shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2008 and dedicated her career to research and activism, traveling the world to fight the spread of the disease.

Today, due to new treatments and drugs, HIV is no longer an automatic death sentencefor the estimated 37 million people around the world living with the virus.

Barré-Sinoussi says even though a cure may never be found, she’s confident that at some point, patients may no longer need indefinite treatment.

FRANÇOISE BARRÉ-SINOUSSI: I am personally convinced that remission is feasible, is achievable. When? I don’t know.

MEGAN THOMPSON: Barré-Sinoussi has closed her lab, but she plans to continue her advocacy work as long as she can.

She says her only regret is not finding an HIV vaccine.

FRANÇOISE BARRÉ-SINOUSSI: Of course, I would have loved, you know, to stop and to see that we have a vaccine against HIV and that we have another treatment at least that induces remission, but that’s life.

I mean, I encourage a new generation of scientists today to continue.