What Is The Treatment
Stem-cell transplants appear to stop the virus being able to replicate inside the body by replacing the patient’s own immune cells with donor ones that resist HIV infection.
Adam Castillejo – the now 40-year-old “London Patient” who has – has no detectable active HIV infection in his blood, semen or tissues, his doctors say.
It is now a year after they first announced he was clear of the virus and he still remains free of HIV.
Lead researcher Prof Ravindra Kumar Gupta, from the University of Cambridge, told BBC News: “This represents HIV cure with almost certainty.
“We have now had two and a half years with anti-retroviral-free remission.
“Our findings show that the success of stem-cell transplantation as a cure for HIV, first reported nine years ago in the Berlin Patient, can be replicated.”
But it will not be a treatment for the millions of people around the world living with HIV.
The aggressive therapy was primarily used to treat the patients’ cancers, not their HIV.
And current HIV drugs remain very effective, meaning people with the virus can live long and healthy lives.
Prof Gupta said: “It is important to note that this curative treatment is high-risk and only used as a last resort for patients with HIV who also have life-threatening haematological malignancies.
“Therefore, this is not a treatment that would be offered widely to patients with HIV who are on successful anti-retroviral treatment.”
No Longer A Death Sentence: How Living With Hiv Has Changed
HIV has proved extraordinarily difficult to eradicate from the body because it will infect certain long-lived immune cells, known collectively as the viral reservoir, that can spend lengthy periods in a resting state. This keeps the viral DNA, known as provirus, that is encoded into those cells under the radar of standard antiretroviral treatment, which can only attack the virus in infected cells when they are actively churning out new copies of HIV.
Yu was also the lead author of a paper in Nature in August 2020 that analyzed 64 people who, like the Argentine woman, are so-called elite controllers of HIV. These are among the estimated 1 in 200 people with HIV whose own immune systems are somehow able to suppress the viruss replication to very low levels without antiretrovirals.
That studys authors found that these individuals immune systems appeared to have preferentially destroyed cells that harbored HIV capable of producing viable new copies of the virus. Left over were only infected cells in which the viral genetic code was spliced into a kind of genetic dead zone regions of the cellular DNA that were too distant from the levers that propel viral replication.
One member of that cohort, Loreen Willenberg, a now-67-year-old Californian who was diagnosed with HIV in 1992, stood out as having an immune system that had apparently vanquished the virus entirely. Even after sequencing billions of her cells, scientists could not find any intact viral sequences.
Have There Been Any Breakthroughs
One reason to hope for a cure for HIV is that experimental treatments seem to have worked in a handful of people already.
The Berlin Patient: In 2008, a man with HIV named Timothy Ray Brown was effectively cured while living in Germany. Researchers treated his blood with a stem cell transplant for leukemia, but the treatment also cured his HIV. His stem cell donor carried a mutation of an HIV-related gene called CCR5. This mutation makes a person almost completely resistant to infection. Brown was the only person to be cured of HIV until 2019, when two others were effectively cured with a similar stem cell therapy.
Visconti Cohort: In 2010, a baby born with HIV in Mississippi began ART soon after birth and was in remission for 2 years after they stopped, but the virus did come back. A trial called the Visconti Cohort studied 20 people with HIV in France. They also started ART within weeks of infection. They were able to stop taking the drugs and still have low levels of HIV years later. Another trial of 15 children with HIV in Thailand had similar results. Itâs important to remember that these were controlled studies if you have HIV, you should never stop ART without talking to your doctor.
These are positive signs, but the studies are very small. We need more research on these potential cures to be able to develop treatments that would safely work on many people, not just a small number.
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How Is Hiv Spread From Person To Person
HIV can only be spread through specific activities. In the United States, the most common ways are:
- Having vaginal or anal sex with someone who has HIV without using a condom or taking medicines to prevent or treat HIV. Anal sex is riskier than vaginal sex.
- Sharing injection drug equipment , such as needles, with someone who has HIV.
Less common ways are:
- From mother to child during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding. However, the use of HIV medicines and other strategies have helped lower the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV to 1% or less in the United States.
- Getting stuck with an HIV-contaminated needle or other sharp object. This is a risk mainly for health care workers. The risk is very low.
HIV is spread only in extremely rare cases by:
- Having oral sex. But in general, the chance that an HIV-negative person will get HIV from oral sex with an HIV-positive partner is extremely low.
Strategies To Cure Hiv
Whilst a person living with HIV can suppress the virus with antiretrovirals, there is no cure. A cure for HIV would be the total eradication of the virus from the body. However, this is not the only option that scientists are looking into. Here are some of the strategies scientists are looking into for an HIV cure.
Light Painting | JonathanCohen via Photopin
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Promising New Research May Soon Help Treat And One Day Cure The Chronic Disease
Just over a decade ago, researchers announced a first: They had cured a patient of HIV. Known as the Berlin patient, Timothy Ray Brown had needed a bone marrow transplant to treat his acute myeloid leukemia. Doctors used the opportunity to replace his bone marrow using stem cells from a donor with gene-based HIV immunity. It worked: Browns leukemia was cured, as was his HIV. More recently, in 2019, a second patient, this time being treated for Hodgkins lymphoma, was similarly cured in London.
But although these are the most famous stories where patients have been cured from HIV, their treatments represent just one option of many new approaches for tackling the virus and one of the least widely applicable. Its too invasive and too risky to conduct a bone marrow transplant on someone who doesnt already have cancer that requires the procedure especially considering most patients with an HIV diagnosis and access to care can effectively control the disease with drugs. In fact, a patient on antiretroviral therapy, or ART, today has the same life expectancy as a person without HIV.
Treatment Reduces The Amount Of Hiv In The Blood
- The amount of HIV in the blood is called viral load.
- Taking your HIV medicine as prescribed will help keep your viral load low and your CD4 cell count high.
- HIV medicine can make the viral load very low . Viral suppression is defined as having less than 200 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood.
- HIV medicine can make the viral load so low that a test cant detect it .
- If your viral load goes down after starting HIV treatment, that means treatment is working. Continue to take your medicine as prescribed.
- If you skip your medications, even now and then, you are giving HIV the chance to multiply rapidly. This could weaken your immune system, and you could become sick.
- Getting and keeping an undetectable viral load is the best way to stay healthy and protect others.
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Patient’s Immune System ‘naturally’ Cures Hiv In The Second Case Of Its Kind
The woman, who lives in Argentina, has been dubbed the Esperanza Patient.
In 2013, doctors delivered a life-altering diagnosis to a woman in Esperanza, Argentina: She had acquired HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Eight years later, the virus has all but disappeared from her system.
In fact, stunned researchers were unable to find evidence of any HIV viral particles in her body, “despite analysis of massive numbers of cells from blood and tissues, suggesting that this patient may have naturally achieved a sterilizing cure,” they wrote on Nov. 16 in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. However, they cautioned that science cannot definitively prove that no trace of the human immunodeficiency virus remains.
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This represents the second known case of a person’s immune system eliminating HIV without a bone marrow transplant or drug intervention, according to STAT. The first such case was a California woman named Loreen Willenberg, who in 2020 found out that the virus was absent from her body for the first time in 27 years, The New York Times reported. Just two other people pseudonymously known as the London Patient and the Berlin Patient have ever been cured of HIV, but only after having their immune cells completely replaced via stem cell therapy, according to research published in 2020 in The Lancet.
Originally published on Live Science.
How Do Hiv Medicines Work
HIV medicines prevent HIV from multiplying , which reduces the amount of HIV in the body . Having less HIV in the body gives the immune system a chance to recover and produce more CD4 cells. Even though there is still some HIV in the body, the immune system is strong enough to fight off infections and certain HIV-related cancers.
By reducing the amount of HIV in the body, HIV medicines also reduce the risk of HIV transmission. A main goal of HIV treatment is to reduce a persons viral load to an undetectable level. An undetectable viral load means that the level of HIV in the blood is too low to be detected by a viral load test. People with HIV who maintain an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to their HIV-negative partners through sex.
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Still Searching For A Cure
Research is still ongoing to find a way to beat HIV. Until there is a cure, HIV-infected people should access ARTs as soon as possible and stick to their daily dose.
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Dr Khosi Kubeka is a Senior Lecturer in UCTs Department of Social Development, having joined the department in 2010 as an AW Mellon Postdoctoral Research Fellow. Dr Kubeka represents the interests if the University of Cape Town on the DTHF board. She currently teaches research methods and coordinates all the research programmes in her department. Dr Kubekas areas of research and interest lie in Youth Developmental Wellbeing, specifically youth exclusion and inclusion in education, health and the economy, as well as youth contribution to community development.
Professor Robin Wood has had a distinguished career in medicine, both within South Africa and further afield. He is currently the Emeritus Professor of Medicine at the University of Cape Town and director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre at the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine. His first foot on the ladder was as student medical officer at a hospital in Peru, followed by stints in the United Kingdom and later, Zambia. In 1990 he took up a Clinical Fellowship at Stanford University.
Whats The Difference Between Hiv And Aids
HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. HIV and AIDS are not the same thing. And people with HIV do not always have AIDS.
HIV is the virus thats passed from person to person. Over time, HIV destroys an important kind of the cell in your immune system that helps protect you from infections. When you dont have enough of these CD4 cells, your body cant fight off infections the way it normally can.
AIDS is the disease caused by the damage that HIV does to your immune system. You have AIDS when you get dangerous infections or have a super low number of CD4 cells. AIDS is the most serious stage of HIV, and it leads to death over time.
Without treatment, it usually takes about 10 years for someone with HIV to develop AIDS. Treatment slows down the damage the virus causes and can help people stay healthy for several decades.
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What If A Friend Tells You That They Have Hiv
More than a million people in the United States are living with HIV, so you may know someone who has the virus. If your friend, family member, or co-worker has been HIV-positive for some time and has just told you, heres how you can be supportive:
- Acknowledge. If someone has disclosed their HIV status to you, thank them for trusting you with their private health information.
- Ask. If appropriate, ask if theres anything that you can do to help them. One reason they may have chosen to disclose their status to you is that they need an ally or advocate, or they may need help with a particular issue or challenge. Some people are public with this information other people keep it very private. Ask whether other people know this information, and how private they are about their HIV status.
- Reassure. Let the person know, through your words or actions, that their HIV status does not change your relationship and that you will keep this information private if they want you to.
- Learn. Educate yourself about HIV. Today, lots of people living with HIV are on ART and have the virus under control. Others are at different stages of treatment and care. Dont make assumptions and look to your friend for guidance.
Is There A Cure For Hiv And Aids
There is no cure for HIV, although antiretroviral treatment can control the virus, meaning that people with HIV can live long and healthy lives.
Most research is looking for a functional cure where HIV is permanently reduced to undetectable and harmless levels in the body, but some residual virus may remain.
Other research is looking for a sterilising cure where HIV is removed from the body completely, but this is more complicated and risky.
Trials of HIV vaccines are encouraging, but so far only offer partial protection.
There is no cure for HIV yet. However, antiretroviral treatment can control HIV and allow people to live a long and healthy life.
For some people, treatment can reduce the level of HIV in their body to such a low amount that they are unable to pass it on . Having an undetectable viral load can keep you healthy, but its not a cure for HIV. To maintain an undetectable viral load a person must keep adhering to their antiretroviral treatment.
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Symptoms Of Hiv Infection
Some people may not develop any symptoms after contracting HIV and could remain undiagnosed until the symptoms of AIDS appear. This could be up to 10 years later.
However, 50% or more of people living with HIV may develop mild flu-like symptoms within 2 to 4 weeks. Early symptoms may include:
- muscle aches
- swollen glands
The symptoms of HIV infection may last from a few days to weeks. They may go away on their own.
Misdiagnosis of early HIV infection is common. If you think you have HIV, speak with your health care provider about being tested.
Effective Ways To Prevent Hiv/aids
The human immunodeficiency virus destroys immune cells which fight infection. This makes it difficult for your body to fight off infections and certain kinds of cancer. Without proper treatment, an HIV infection can progress to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS, a stage where your immune system is seriously damaged and you get a number of severe illnesses known as opportunistic infections.1
HIV spreads through contact with body fluids like blood, semen, pre-seminal fluids, vaginal fluids, rectal fluids, or breast milk from an infected person. In the United States, this virus is mostly spread by having sex with or sharing syringes or other injection equipment with someone who is infected. It can also be transmitted from a mother to her child during the course of the pregnancy, while breastfeeding, or during childbirth.2 Although the number of people being infected with HIV has been declining, it still remains a cause of concern with thousands of new cases being diagnosed every year.3 But take heart, there are things you can do to protect yourself from this dangerous infection.
Here are some ways to keep yourself safe.
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What Are The Challenges
While research on a cure is promising, there are some challenges. One is that we donât fully understand how HIV reservoirs work. Scientists are learning how to find, measure, and destroy them.
What about stem cell therapy? The CCR5 mutation that protects you from HIV is very rare, so itâs hard to find donor cells. Also, stem cell therapy is risky. People can reject donor cells and become very ill. Scientists are trying to find therapies that make a personâs own cells resistant to the virus, so they wonât need donor cells.
Another challenge is that males are the subjects of most HIV clinical trials, but about half of people with the virus are female. We need more studies to look at whether treatments will work on women and girls.
Even though research is very promising, it could be a few years before these treatments are tested to be sure they work well and are safe to use in many people who have HIV.
AIDSinfo.gov: âHIV Treatments: The Basics.â
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: âHIV Cure.â
amfAR: âThe Countdown to a Cure for AIDS,â âPathways to an HIV Cure,â âMaking Sense of the Three Types of HIV Cure: The Berlin Patient, the Mississippi Child, and the VISCONTI Cohort.â
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center: âWorld AIDS Day: Stepping up the search for a cure.â
Delaney Cell and Genome Engineering Initiative: âDefeat HIV: Scientific Overview.â