We follow the ever changing road to a cure for HIV, and want you to be updated, too. Funding for “Cure Research” has increased as more and more energy seems to coalesce around the reality controlling HIV and ending the epidemic.
Some are hopeful that a “sterilizing” cure can be found, which generally refers to a total wipe-out of disease. A sterilizing cure for HIV would mean that a person was no longer HIV infected. No HIV disease. Gone. No medicine. This is something that is still hoped for, but may be a long way off. Some wonder if an all-out cure is even possible.
The chief barrier to defeating HIV is what is known as the viral reservoir, a hidden supply of inactive (or latent) virus that seems to be present for all people living with HIV, although the amount of inactive virus seems to vary from person to person. This inactive virus is difficult to identify or to quantify. It is especially difficult to kill, as inactive virus tends to be invisible to medication that can eliminate active virus.
Many of those living with HIV today are in a state of disease that provides health for the patient without risk of infection to others. We know that current treatments for HIV can hold the virus at bay, with a viral “load” that stays at a very low (undetectable) level. This state can provide health for the patient (extending life expectancy to near normal levels) and can reduce the chance of infecting others to nearly zero. This is great news and represents tremendous progress in the fight against HIV. The hitch is that patients still need to take daily medication, although alternatives to pills are in the works, including long-acting injectables, implants, and cervical rings for women. A true, “functional” cure would involve “remission” of HIV, without the need for medication. This goal has not yet been attained.
Other strategies in cure research include stem cell transplants, gene therapy, Kick and Kill (waking up the viral reservoir and attacking those viruses), Block and Lock (silencing ALL of the latent virus), and immune system enhancement.
You can explore this topic with a great article in the Jan.- Feb. 2019 editions of both Positively Aware, and POZ Magazine. We’d like you to check out these great articles, The Road Ahead and Emerging Options.