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.
Why Is Hiv So Hard To Cure
HIV infects a kind of white blood cell called a CD4 lymphocyte, a key player in the immune response. What makes HIV so sneaky is that it infects the very cells that are supposed to rub out viral infections.
HIV replicates in CD4 cells when they are activated that is, when they are triggered by an infection. But some HIV-infected cells become inactive before the virus replicates. They go into a resting mode and the HIV inside them becomes dormant until the cell is activated.
HIV drugs dont affect HIV hiding in resting cells. These cells represent a hidden reservoir of HIV. When treatment stops, the resting cells eventually become active. The HIV inside them replicates and quickly spreads. Thats why current HIV treatments dont cure HIV.
What You Can Do To Reduce Stigma
You can help reduce stigma by being respectful, compassionate and non-judgemental. Model this behaviour for others when you witness stigmatizing behaviours.
When talking about HIV, certain terms can be stigmatizing. Be thoughtful about the words you use when discussing the topic.
Learn more about the facts of HIV. Treatment can lower the amount of virus in a person’s blood to a level that’s too low to be measured on a standard blood test. This means it’s undetectable.
People living with HIV on treatment who maintain an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to their sexual partners.
Knowing and sharing these facts widely can help to reduce stigma. Share our Undetectable = Untransmittable infographic to help us raise awareness.
In addition, HIV is not transmitted through:
- healthy, unbroken skin
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Main Approaches To Cure Hiv
Activate and eradicate:- this method aims to eradicate the virus out of its reservoir and kill the infected cells.
Gene editing:- this includes changing immune cells, so they wont be affected by HIV.
Immune modulation:- involves changing the immune system wholly to better make it get rid of HIV.
Stem cells transplant:- it is the transplantation of an infected immune system with a donors immune system.
Although the stem cell approach has been proven effective in the past, it can be very dangerous to people. A stem cell transplant would only be considered an applicable option if the person urgently needs it for treating some other deadly condition like very advanced leukemia. And which havent had other safe and effective options available like HIV.
Whenever we find a cure for any disease, it comes to vaccination. Most of the dangerous diseases like polio, chickenpox have been cured by vaccines only. Similarly, in the case of HIV, there is a strong need for a vaccine. But will we ever get a vaccine for HIV? Or will HIV ever be curable?
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Progress In Hiv Treatment
Thanks to this groundbreaking discovery, the number of HIV-related deaths dropped significantly in the following years.
Today, people living with HIV can take antiretroviral therapy for treatment. Like HAART, this involves taking a combination of medications that prevent the virus from multiplying and thus destroying the bodys T cells. Reducing the amount of HIV in the virus also reduces the risk of transmission. Today, if you have an undetectable viral load that means the level of HIV in your blood is too low to come up in a viral load test then you have no risk of passing HIV on to your partner.
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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.”
Womans Own Immune System Has Possibly Cured Her Of Hiv
A woman in Argentina has become only the second documented person whose own immune system may have cured her of HIV.
Researchers have dubbed the 30-year-old mother, who was first diagnosed with HIV in 2013, the Esperanza patient, after the town in Argentina where she lives. In English, esperanza means hope.
I enjoy being healthy, the Esperanza patient, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the stigma associated with the virus, told NBC News in Spanish over email. I have a healthy family. I dont have to medicate, and I live as though nothing has happened. This already is a privilege.
This is really the miracle of the human immune system that did it.
Dr. Xu Yu, Ragon Institute
The co-authors of the study, which was in the Annals of Internal Medicine, said they believe their findings will indeed bring hope to the estimated 38 million people globally living with the virus and to the ever-expanding HIV-cure research field. The case serves as one of two proofs of concept that a so-called sterilizing cure of the virus is apparently possible through natural immunity.
This is really the miracle of the human immune system that did it, said Dr. Xu Yu, a viral immunologist at the Ragon Institute in Boston, who in partnership with Dr. Natalia Laufer, a physician scientist at INBIRS Institute in Buenos Aries, Argentina, led the exhaustive search for any viable HIV in the womans body.
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The Case Of The Esperanza Patient
This most recent case of a natural HIV cure centers on a 30-year-old woman first diagnosed with HIV in 2013.
I enjoy being healthy, said the woman known as the Esperanza patient, who spoke on condition of anonymity to NBC News. I have a healthy family. I dont have to medicate, and I live as though nothing has happened. This already is a privilege.
In the new paper spotlighting the Esperanza patient , researchers found that the woman might potentially be an elite controller of the virus.
She shows no signs of active HIV infection in the 8 years since her diagnosis. Current testing has been unable to detect the presence of HIV in her cells.
She was not a recipient of a regular regimen of antiretroviral treatments. The only time she received antiretroviral medications was for 6 months in 2019 when she became pregnant.
During that brief period, she took the drugs tenofovir, emtricitabine, and raltegravir during her second and third trimesters, according to CNN.
The Esperanza patient is just the second person reported to have possibly staved off the virus naturally ultimately erasing any signs of active HIV without the assistance of medical therapies like stem cell transplants.
The first was a woman from California, Loreen Willenberg, who is now 67 years old. She was diagnosed with HIV in 1992, and her immune system apparently performed the same function of naturally eliminating HIV.
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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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.
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.
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Impact Beyond The Scientific Community
AIDS-denialist claims have failed to attract support in the scientific community, where the evidence for the causative role of HIV in AIDS is considered conclusive. However, the movement has had a significant impact in the political sphere, culminating with former South African President Thabo Mbeki‘s embrace of AIDS-denialist claims. The resulting governmental refusal to provide effective anti-HIV treatment in South Africa has been blamed for hundreds of thousands of premature AIDS-related deaths in South Africa.
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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How A Functional Cure Might Work
One of the biggest challenges facing researchers is that HIV circulates in the blood and quickly embeds itself into cells and tissues throughout the body where it is shielded from detection by the immune system and can persist even in the face of complete viral suppression.
Since the virus is not actively replicatingbut is rather carried along passively as the host cell replicatesit is largely unaffected by antiretroviral drugs .
In order for a functional cure to be achieved, not one but multiple barriers have to be overcome to put the virus into remission. In recent years, scientists have dubbed this the kick-kill strategy, for which two primary aims need to be achieved.
We Found The Secret To The Hiv & Aids Problem
What are referred to as HIV are actually several different microorganisms made in the laboratory by scientists working for the US Government in colloboration with WHO and CDC. 1. These microorganisms include SV40 or simian virus or a virus for monkeys which is laced, tainted or used to contaminated vaccines and other medicines to cause immune suppression in human beings. 2. Then also, the microorganism is actually a mycoplasma fermentans incognitus, made by the US government.
The World Health Organisation has this information confirmed on their website of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization of 1972 volume 47, No.2 page 259, and specifically under Recommendation number 3.The website is https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2480894/
Recommendation number 3 of this article in question reads:
An attempt should be made to ascertain whether viruses can in fact exert selective effects on immune function e.g. by depressing 7s and 19 s antibody or by affecting T cell function as opposed to B cell function . The possibility should be looked into that the immune response to the viruses may itself be impaired if the infecting virus damages more or less selectively the cells responding to the viral antigens. If this proves the case, virus-induced immunodepression might conceivably be highly instrumental in prolonging certain virus infections such as murine leukaemia, hepatitis sub-acute sclerosing panecephalitis, or infections caused by LDV, LCMV, or ADV.
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What Should I Do Until Theres A Cure For Hiv
For now, the best thing to do for your health is to test regularly for HIV. Testing is the only way to know for sure if you have the virus.
If youve already tested and your result is positive, youll be advised to start antiretroviral treatment as soon as possible. Treatment is the only way to manage HIV and prevent it from damaging your immune system. It also reduces the risk of passing HIV on to your sexual partners. With treatment, people living with HIV can have long and healthy lives.
Hiv Cure Research Approaches
There are a few different approaches to research cures. While each is promising, as of yet, there is no cure.
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Can Hiv Be Cured Naturally
HIV cannot be treated or managed without proper medical therapy. It is important to seek medical attention as soon as a person is exposed to a potential risk of HIV infection. This will facilitate early diagnosis and treatment. It can be dangerous to seek non-scientific and unapproved treatment approaches as it may lead to disease progression. This will make the management more difficult and may even lead to fatal complications.
Why Is Hiv Treatment Important
Getting and staying on HIV treatment because it reduces the amount of HIV in your blood to a very low level. This keeps you healthy and prevents illness. There is also a major prevention benefit. People living with HIV who take HIV medication daily as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting HIV to their HIV-negative partners. This is called treatment as prevention.
If left untreated, HIV attacks your immune system and can allow different types of life-threatening infections and cancers to develop. If your CD4 cell count falls below a certain level, you are at risk of getting an opportunistic infection. These are infections that dont normally affect people with healthy immune systems but that can infect people with immune systems weakened by HIV infection. Your health care provider may prescribe medicines to prevent certain infections.
HIV treatment is most likely to be successful when you know what to expect and are committed to taking your medicines exactly as prescribed. Working with your health care provider to develop a treatment plan will help you learn more about HIV and manage it effectively.
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