Right-wing pundits/Conservatives/the Usual Suspects hate how much money the government has spent/is spending on HIV/AIDS. “No one gets AIDS but homos and blacks, so why the hell is the government spending all this money on AIDS and not cancer?” (random example)
There is a pattern Im seeing in these kinds of people: They are stupid, and they have an inability to delay gratification.
Example: HIV/AIDS research does not only benefit HIV/AIDS patients. Our understanding of the human immune system and cell biology has increased exponentially because of HIV/AIDS research, which has far reaching effects on every human disease, including the one Im going to write about today, rheumatoid arthritis.
In a sterile environment, theoretically HIV/AIDS patients could ‘normal’ lives. People dont really die ‘from HIV-1 infection’, they die from the inability to respond appropriately to secondary infections because of the effects of HIV-1 infection. An example of a secondary infection would be cryptococcus neoformans. Its not a big deal for healthy people, but it causes lung infections (and fungal meningitis) in AIDS patients.
In other words, we probably would have ignored cryptococcus neoformans if it werent for AIDS.
Good thing we didnt. Because to understand how this yeast invades AIDS patients, we learned more about the biochemistry, cell biology, and immunology of cryptococcus neoformans infection. That information might be useful to us when we try to treat other diseases! If we figure out how cryptococcus neoformans picks our locks in AIDS, not only can we treat AIDS patients, we can use cryptococcus neoformans hacks as a hack for different diseases!
Turns out cryptococcus neoformans produces a polysaccharide, glucuronoxylomannan (GXM), which further immunosuppresses the hosts immune system– stops the release of proinflammatory cytokines, and tells your immune cells to sit down and shut up. Thats how it gets a foot-hold in AIDS patients lungs. However, the immunosuppressive signaling cascade GXM starts turns out to be basically the opposite cell signaling pathway of immune activation we see in rheumatoid arthritis patients! So researchers gave RA mice doses of GXM at various points in disease progression– they not only stopped RA progression (low clinical scores after treatment), they stopped the development of RA totally in 10% of the mice treated early.
Of course, mice arent humans. We have to do studies in humans. But giving RA patients GXM instead of corticosteroids or NSAIDs would be a very attractive option– scientists gave mice (and human culture cells) high doses of GXM without any obvious issues, as opposed to the side-effects of current therapies.
Im terrified of developing the kind of RA my grandmother had (severe RA in her hands), so Im pretty damn glad we spend ‘all that money’ on HIV/AIDS, independent of my own research interests.