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While a breakthrough in HIV treatment two years ago was greeted with euphoria, a leading scientist in AIDS research says the war against the epidemic is far from over.

“This epidemic will be with us for generations to come. It will not go away anytime soon. In fact, it’s likely to get much worse,” David Ho, a professor at Rockefeller University and director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York, told a Sunday news conference in Tokyo.

When Ho and his colleagues, in a dramatic breakthrough, developed a treatment two years ago using potent anti-HIV drug cocktails, medical circles were excited over the prospect that the virus would be eradicated. But such optimism faded as inequities in treatment and care between rich and poor nations became more visible.

The therapy will not ease the ongoing global AIDS epidemic, Ho said after attending an international symposium on the issue. “It’s sad to realize there’s a large gap between what we do in Japan, the U.S. and Europe (compared with) what we do in developing countries, where we cannot talk about any of these drugs. They simply are not available,” he said. “Even though I currently work a lot on therapy, I still feel that the solution of the international problem lies with education and prevention,” he said.

Therapeutic treatment also is facing new challenges, Ho said. Treatment for HIV infection changed dramatically after a combination of drugs — including HIV specific protease inhibitors and reverse transcriptase inhibitors — were proved to be very effective in attacking the virus.

Previously, researchers were at a loss about how to cope with HIV’s rapidly changing characteristics. Ho found in 1995 that by combining different types of anti-HIV drugs, the level of virus in the body can be reduced by several thousand times.

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