Gay Styx founder rocks Atlanta HIV research

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imageIt’s been more than 30 years since Styx invited us to “Come Sail Away,” but gay rocker Chuck Panozzo keeps a high-profile, not just in retro concert tours but in an Atlanta-based search for HIV/AIDS vaccines.

If you were a mullet and t-back tank wearing gay in the ’70s, you know that Panozzo (photo) and his brother founded Styx and turned it into one of the quintessential FM rock bands back in the day. He came out as gay and HIV-positive in 2001. Now 61 and a world away from “Mr. Roboto,” Panozzo lends his name as a spokesperson for the Atlanta biotech firm GeoVax and its HIV/AIDS vaccine trials.

Having a famous name with a personal connection helps the cause, and the joint effort between Panozzo and the company came together after the bass player met a GeoVax scientist at an AIDS benefit, the rocker says.

“I was sincerely touched by her success and determination in her pursuit to bring an end to the devastating AIDS pandemic,” Panozzo says in a prepared statement. “Having been diagnosed HIV positive in 1991, and having lost many relatives and friends to HIV/AIDS over the years, I found Dr. Robinson’s quest for a vaccine hitting very close to home.”

GeoVax’s preventative HIV vaccine has completed Phase 1 clinical trials in humans. Phase 2 is in progress with results expected in 2011.

“The hope [is for] a vaccine that can be taken once a year at much less cost than current treatments allow, and one that can be made readily available to patients around the world,” Panozzo continues. “It could be the beginning of the end of HIV as we know it today.”

The FDA has approved the company’s therapeutic vaccine candidate to begin clinical trials. The company seeks recently infected trial participants who started drug treatment during their first year of infection.

“A lot of people think HIV is a death sentence,” Panozzo says. “Not anymore. I expect something big will happen in the next 10 years to revolutionize this field.”

Reminds us of the advice Panozzo & Co. gave in Styx’s 1977 runaway hit “Fooling yourself.”

Why must you be such an angry young man
When your future looks quite bright to me

Visit the company website for more information about GeoVax’s HIV/AIDS vaccine trials.


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