(Reuters) - Two French scientists who discovered the AIDS virus and a German who found the virus that causes cervical cancer were awarded the 2008 Nobel prize for medicine or physiology on Monday.
Here are some details about the diseases:
-- Luc Montagnier, director of the World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention, and Francoise Barre-Sinoussi of the Institut Pasteur won for discovering the deadly virus that has killed millions of people since it was identified in the 1980s.
-- There is no cure for HIV, which gradually destroys the immune system. Drug cocktails called highly active antiretroviral therapy or HAART can control infection and keep patients healthy.
-- HIV is commonly passed through sexual contact between a man and a woman. It can also be passed from man to man, by infected needles or blood, and from a mother to a baby.
-- Global deaths from AIDS reached an estimated 2 million in 2007, down from 2.1 million deaths in 2006. Some 33 million people were living with immunodeficiency virus infections in 2007, most of them in Africa, according to the latest United Nations report on the AIDS epidemic.
-- Harald zur Hausen of the University of Duesseldorf and a former director of the German Cancer Research Center, shared the other half of the prize for work that went against the current dogma as to the cause of cervical cancer.
-- Cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer in women. Each year an estimated 500,000 women are diagnosed with the disease and about 300,000 die from it, mostly in the developing world.
-- Merck & Co’s Gardasil and GlaxoSmithKline’s Cervarix are vaccines that protect against some strains of the virus.
-- Both vaccines are designed to be given to girls and young women to protect them against cancer-causing strains of HPV virus.
-- Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus and it is the second most common type of cancer in women. The disease kills 300,000 each year, mostly in developing countries.