For 15 years now, L’Oréal and Unesco have joined forces to fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS with Hairdressers Against AIDS. Through its community of hairstylists and the relationship they have with their clientele, the aim of the program is to spread messages about prevention and to raise funds.
A sign of commitment
This year, the Hairdressers Against AIDS program (through L’Oréal Professional Products Division) is mobilizing its 600,000 hairstylists in 37 countries all over the world to cut short common ideas about HIV/AIDS. With a temporary tattoo of a red ribbon and a photo posted on social networks, they are all participating in the digital movement #cutAIDSshort, which aims to raise awareness, spread messages about prevention, to educate and to encourage involvement in supporting research at the Institut Pasteur.
Over 30 years of research at the Institut Pasteur
Since the discovery of HIV in 1983 at the Institut Pasteur, research has made a lot of progress in preventing and treating the infection. Triple therapy has transformed a deadly infection into a chronic illness. The 130 research units at the Institut Pasteur are mainly devoted to fighting against infectious diseases. Although tremendous progress has been made in preventing and treating HIV infection, a vaccine and a remedy have yet to be found. FAB Beauty met with Michaela Müller-Trutwin, the head of the HIV, Inflammation and Persistence Unit at the Institut Pasteur.
FAB Beauty: What is the situation today of the virus and the disease?
Michaela Müller-Trutwin: “Even with treatments that drastically reduce the transmission rates of HIV, the risk of developing other diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases or tuberculosis in developing countries is still high. At worldwide level, HIV is still among the 10 major causes of death and it contributes to the spread of tuberculosis. Finally, only 40% of those living with HIV and 30% of infected children have access to treatment. Patients have to take medications their entire lives. It’s important to find a vaccine as well as new triple therapies that will help patients to reach full remission and stop their treatment without any risk for them or those around them.”
FAB Beauty: How do you use the donations you receive?
Michaela Müller-Trutwin: “Donations help us to develop new programs, purchase equipments and reagents for our experiments and can even provide financial aid for doctoral students in our laboratory. And, in the field of scientific research, costs can quickly be very high. For example, the slightest study to test new therapeutic strategies at the pre-clinical stage costs about €200,000. And research on a new biomarker costs at least €50,000 over one year. This is also the annual cost for purchasing reagents in a single unit.”
FAB Beauty: What sort of research do you have to do?
Michaela Müller-Trutwin: “With donations we received previously, we have had gained significant knowledge about HIV infection, but no vaccine solution or cure has been successful. HIV gets around the immune responses of the host using particularly singular and complex mechanisms. It is essential to better determine the immune responses that can provide effective protection against HIV/AIDS as well as discovering how this protection can be induced in the patient. This is what we’re working on.”
HIV/AIDS is still one of the top ten causes of death in the world, and although prevention and education are more essential than ever, supporting research remains crucial. 35 million people carry the virus in the world. No treatment can cure it and there is no vaccine against it. Let’s take action. Make a donation.