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Anthony Fauci ended his career at the age of 82, and has always been devoted to science.

Anthony Fauci ended his career at the age of 82, and has always been devoted to science.

Anthony Fauci will end 50 years of public service later this month. A march marked, at the beginning, by the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the novel coronavirus at the end, always under the principle of “faithfulness to science”.

In an extensive interview with the Associated Press, Fauci said he was excited about the prospects of advances such as next-generation coronavirus vaccines, but also worried that the falsehoods represented a “very dangerous time” for public health and science.

“There are many lies, and we almost normalized them,” he said. “I am interested in my own field of knowledge, but also with the country,” he said.

Fauci, who turns 82 on Christmas Eve, was a medical scientist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for 54 years, 38 of which were director.

Being able to explain scientific complexity in simple, straightforward terms, Fauci has advised seven US presidents, from Ronald Reagan to Joe Biden, on a long chain of outbreaks – HIV, Ebola, Zika, avian influenza, pandemic influenza, to the anthrax attacks of 2001. .

“Be true to the science and never be afraid to tell someone the truth — but there are inconvenient truths where there is a possibility that a messenger could get hurt,” Fauci said, adding, “This shouldn’t be a concern. You just have to keep telling the truth.”

Added with typical understatement:

“This has served me very well with one exception where the fact has generated a great deal of hostility towards me from a presidential administration.”

Despite his influence on national and international responses to infectious diseases, it wasn’t until the novel coronavirus pandemic hit in early 2020 that Fauci became a household name in just about every household – providing the latest updates at conferences. The White House and frequent interviews.

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But Fauci ended up contradicting President Donald Trump as he sought to downplay the seriousness and threat of the virus and promote untested alternative treatments.

Trump and his allies began attacking Fauci, who received death threats.

As the world prepares to enter another year with Covid-19, Fauci remains a target of the far right, but he also remains a trusted voice for millions of Americans.

Under his direction, researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) laid the scientific foundation for the rapid development of powerful vaccines against the novel coronavirus.

An analysis released last week by the Commonwealth Fund found that Vaccines have saved 3.2 million lives in the United States alone and prevented 18.5 million from hospitalization.

With a new wave of infections on the way for winter, Fauci is disappointed that only 14% of people eligible for the booster vaccine — updated with protection from Omicron strains — have been vaccinated.

“It doesn’t make sense when you know you have a vaccine that saves lives,” he said.

But he is also already considering next-generation vaccines, which will improve infection prevention, and cites promising developments, such as intranasal vaccines.

Aside from the political attacks, the public has struggled to understand why their advice and other health advice changed as the pandemic progressed, such as not deeming masks necessary at first and then making them mandatory.

One of the lessons of the pandemic, Fauci said, is the need to communicate better, to understand that it’s normal for messages to change as scientists make discoveries.

“It doesn’t mean you’re going back. It means you follow the flag,” he explained.

For decades, Fauci has been involved in lifesaving scientific advances. As a young researcher at the National Institutes of Health, he helped develop highly effective therapies for the rare, but now fatal, blood vessel disease known as vasculitis.

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Then came the AIDS crisis, with days that Fauci, who treated patients at the National Institutes of Health hospital, remembers as “very dark and very difficult,” explaining: “As a doctor, you’re trained to treat people. And we weren’t treating anyone. Everyone was dying in front of us.” .

Fauci created the AIDS division which, along with pharmaceutical companies and universities, led research into drugs that eventually turned HIV into a chronic, manageable disease.

Later in George W. Bush’s presidency, Fauci helped develop PEPFAR, a presidential emergency relief plan, to bring HIV drugs to poor countries. This program has been credited with saving more than 20 million lives over the past 20 years.

But it took years to get the first AIDS drugs—and in the late 1980s and early 1990s, angry activists protested what they saw as government indifference.

Fauci met with activists and made it standard practice for patient representatives to have a say in government decisions related to medical research.

Unfortunately, he says, this experience cannot help overcome the political divisions that undermine public health.

AIDS activists, he said, “were theatrical. They were belligerent. They were provocative. They were confrontational. All of this. But the central message they conveyed was the right message.” “This is very different from what we are seeing now with Covid disease, where lies, conspiracy theories and distortion of reality abound.”

Despite this harsh environment, Fauci is excited about recent scientific advances against diseases, such as vaccines for malaria, tuberculosis and, perhaps one day, HIV. That is why he announced that he would not retire, although he would leave public office.

“I will continue to teach, write, and try to encourage and inspire people to specialize in science, medicine, and public health,” he said. “Many things are open and must be closed one day, because that is what science will do.”