In 1981 clinicians were alarmed by the sharp rise in the number of people they were seeing with swollen lymph glands (nodes) and infections that betrayed a failed immune system. Finding the cause was a matter of urgency. After months of painstaking experiments, culturing cells from an affected patient’s lymph node Françoise Barré-Sinoussi – born on this day in 1947 – had found the culprit, a virus. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the cause of the immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) had been identified in less than two and a half years. Research into how to treat it and limit its spread could begin. Barré-Sinoussi – along with her mentor at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France, Luc Montagnier – received the Nobel Prize for her work in 2008. Today she challenges government and religious heads about how they are tackling HIV, contraception and the distribution of anti-retroviral drugs.
Written by Lindsey Goff
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