Another AIDS Breakthrough -- Maybe

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NEW YORK: It may yet give hope to millions of AIDS sufferers. But for now, the experimental drug T-20 is just that -- utterly experimental. The results of a preliminary two-week study published in the November issue of Nature Medicine suggest that T-20 can reduce the AIDS virus in the bloodstream by as much 99 percent. But, warns TIME medical columnist Christine Gorman, that doesnít make it a magic bullet. "You donít learn an awful lot in two weeks," she says. "Remember, protease inhibitors worked great at the start."

So whatís new with T-20? The drug does adopt a different strategy than previous AIDS solutions; it sabotages more of HIVís machinery for penetrating the bodyís cells. Thatís important, because HIV is a tricky, genetically unstable little customer. The bad news: T-20 has to be injected, not swallowed as a pill, which suggests the drug gets destroyed by the stomach. "Thatís not going to be very convenient," warns Gorman. Weíll find out more in the next round of testing -- but donít hold your breath for the cure.