Other than finding a cure for cancer, curing AIDS might just be the holy grail of medicine. But doctors are loath to speculate on when a real solution, such as an AIDS vaccine, might be developed.
Over the past 30 years, much progress has been made on managing HIV, but eliminating AIDS and HIV is years away at best, if a cure is even possible. For your next research paper in health education, a good topic to cover would be on the prevention and management of AIDS and HIV.
Cure years away
Thirty years ago, researchers and doctors promised that a cure for AIDS and HIV was a mere one or two years away. However, an AIDS vaccine has yet to materialize. French virologist Francois Barre-Sinoussi, who is credited with discovering HIV, spoke recently about the possibilities at the AIDS 2014 Conference in Melbourne. “I don’t know how long it will take to get a cure,” she was quoted in “Years for AIDS cure, conference told” by the Australian Associated Press for The Daily Mail on July 21, 2014. Barre-Sinoussi added, “We cannot really answer that, I personally think we should not give any dates.”
According to the United Nations, 35 million people are living with HIV today. Researchers say they will continue to focus their efforts on managing HIV, to achieve long-term remission, and will focus less on a full-fledged AIDS vaccine or curing AIDS.
Controlling AIDS and HIV
Meanwhile in the April 2014 issue of Clinical Psychiatry News, Neil Osterweil wrote of a “Potential ‘Functional Cure’ Engineered for AIDS.” Now in phase II of its study, researchers are genetically engineering CD4 T cells (the gene involved with the entry of HIV into cells) from HIV patients to disable the gene for the HIV coreceptor CCR5.
Neil wrote, “The therapy is designed to keep HIV under control without additional antiretroviral drugs.” The major finding from the study so far is that three of the 12 HIV-positive patients who participated and were treated had viral load reductions after 16 weeks of antiretroviral therapy interruption.
Other HIV news
Technically, there has been one patient “cured” of HIV—Timothy Ray Brown, otherwise known as the “Berlin Patient.” Michael Byrne posted on Motherboard on July 20, 2014, about this cured patient and other HIV news in “Two New Patients Cleared of HIV Infections.”
Byrne wrote, “Brown received a bone marrow transplant in Berlin in 2007, a transplant sourced from a donor with a natural genetic resistance to HIV. The transplant was an effort to cure Brown’s leukemia and it appears to have done so, but it also appears to have eliminated Brown’s HIV infection.” Brown has not taken any antiretroviral medication since then and, during the intervening years, HIV has not been detected in his system.
Now two recent recipients of bone marrow transplants in Australia appear to have also had similar results, as reported at the 20th International AIDS Conference. Unlike Brown, however, both patients are still taking their antiretroviral medication. However, both patients’ viral loads are low enough that they can’t be attributed to the antiretroviral treatment alone.
While the idea that a bone marrow transplant might offer a so-called cure for AIDS and HIV is exciting, it is not feasible for the 35 million infected around the world. However, it is possible that by studying how such a removal and regeneration of the immune system helped Brown and the two other patients, researchers might be able to make further advancements that will help with managing HIV and possibly even curing AIDS.
Is there a cure out there for AIDS? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.