As advanced as science and technology is throughout the world, there is currently no cure for HIV. Yet, there are many clinical studies and trials that are dedicated to researching and discovering a cure for HIV.
The current antiretroviral treatments allow people living with HIV to prevent its progress and to live normal lifespans. Scientists, public health workers, governmental agencies internationally, community- based organisations and societies, HIV activists, and various pharmaceutical companies have made great strides toward finding a way of preventing and treating HIV.
Researchers are constantly ambitiously searching for new drugs and treatments for HIV. They’re constantly continuing to strive to find therapies that will extend and improve the quality of life for people who are HIV positive. In addition, it is their aim to develop a vaccine and discover a cure for HIV.
Part of what makes discovering a cure for HIV difficult, is that the immune system has difficulty in targeting reservoirs of cells with HIV. The immune system usually can’t recognise or determine cells with HIV, neither can it eliminate the cells that are actively reproducing the virus. This is of course a problematic factor standing in the way of finding a solution.
Antiretroviral therapy doesn’t eliminate HIV reservoirs. For this reason, scientists are exploring two categories in search of an HIV cure.
The one category is known as the “Functional Cure” which is a type of cure for HIV that would control replication of HIV. The second category is known as the “Sterilisation Cure”. This type of cure would totally eliminate the part of the virus responsible for its replication. These cures would potentially, and hopefully, destroy HIV reservoirs.
Researchers at the University of Illinois have been using computer simulations to study the HIV capsid. The capsid is the “container” carrying the virus’s genetic material. This capsid protects the virus from being destroyed by the immune system which is ultimately what scientist would like to achieve.
Understanding the makeup of the capsid and how it interacts with its environment, may help researchers find a way to break the capsid open, releasing the genetic material of HIV into the body where it can be destroyed by the immune system. It’s a promising potential solution in HIV treatment and cure for HIV. As medicine has rapidly advanced over time and continues to do so, it is hoped that the answer is fast approaching.
It has been documented that a gentleman living in Berlin, infected with HIV, also had leukaemia. He received a stem cell transplant to treat the leukaemia. What has been detected is that HIV has not since been found in the said subject for over 10 years since the procedure. At the University of California, San Francisco, studies of multiple parts of his body have shown that he is free of the HIV virus. He’s considered “effectively cured.” However, there are no updates to demonstrate this success more recently as tests have not subsequently been repeated. Thus, the finding remains anecdotal to date.
In early 2013, scientists reported that a 2-year-old child in Mississippi who was born to an HIV-positive mother had been “functionally cured” of HIV. Doctors began administering antiretroviral treatment from the infant’s first day of life. The baby remained on the antiretroviral therapy for the first 18 months of life while doctors performed regular blood tests to check the levels of HIV.
The baby was still HIV-free, as far as tests could detect, 10 months after ceasing medication. Many researchers considered the child to be “functionally cured.” However, two years after ending antiretroviral therapy, detectable levels of HIV were found in the child’s blood. The child was no longer considered cured and resumed antiretroviral treatment.
Researchers hardly understood HIV 30 years ago, let alone how to treat or cure HIV. It presented as an enigma. Over the past three decades, advances in technology and medical capabilities have brought more advanced HIV treatments, making it a lot less of a conundrum. Each year, hundreds of clinical trials aim to find better treatments for HIV in the hope of one day finding a cure for HIV. With these new treatments come better methods of preventing the transmission of HIV, as well as the hope of being that much closer to the solution.
Until then, the emphasis remains that those who are HIV positive must continue to take their antiretroviral treatment daily.
Successful antiretroviral treatments can now stop the progression of HIV and can decrease a person’s viral load to levels that are undetectable but this is not a cure for HIV. This is of course encouraging. Having an undetectable viral load not only promotes a person’s own continued health, but also eliminates the risk of transmitting the virus to a sexual partner. Specific drug therapy can also prevent pregnant women with HIV from transmitting the virus to their babies. Thus, it is encouraging that great strides have been made in the right direction, bringing the medical profession greater hope as they relentlessly persist in finding a cure for HIV.
The development of a vaccine for HIV would save millions of lives and could effectively be called a cure for HIV in laymans terms. However, researchers haven’t yet discovered an effective vaccine for HIV.
In 2009, a study published in the Journal of Virology found that an experimental vaccine prevented about 31 percent of new infections. However, further research was stopped due to dangerous risks. This has been a great challenge for scientists in finding a cure for HIV.
In early 2013, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases stopped a clinical trial that was testing injections of the HVTN 505 vaccine. Data from the trial indicated that the vaccine didn’t prevent HIV infection or reduce the amount of HIV in the blood. Persisting would thus have been a futile exercise.
Research into vaccines continues to be an ongoing mission throughout the world. Every year there are new discoveries and clinical trials. Much money is spent on these trials.
Until then, there is no alternative but to take the prophylactic approach and be extremely cautious to prevent acquiring and transmitting the infection until a cure for HIV is found.