Health Care

A cure for HIV? It’s feasible, but still some time away

A cure for HIV? It’s feasible, but still some time away”

The breakthrough comes just days after a patient in London became the second person to be declared HIV free after a bone marrow transplant. Yes, these new drugs hopefully have less side effects to extend the life long use of expensive pharmaceuticals by all people living with HIV, but they are not a cure. It made him resistant to HIV, just like the first cured case of Timothy Ray Brown, better known as the "Berlin patient", a decade ago.

In reality, existing prescription therapies using three HIV drugs, commonly referred to as the AIDS cocktail, are far less unsafe, less expensive and work much more effectively, even though they are not a cure and must be taken daily for a patient's life.

Other HIV patients from IciStem have also undergone similar bone marrow transplants for cancer, but they have not yet stopped taking the antiviral medications at this point.

This complex treatment involves destroying a person's own immune system with high doses of chemotherapy or radiation.

Co-organised by Vietnam Authority for HIV/AIDS Control (VAAC), Ministry of Health and the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the events mark an important milestone in securing domestic sustainable financing for the HIV response in Việt Nam and ensuring that people living with HIV access treatment services.

The surgical replacement of bone marrow with the stem cells of patients who have the CCR5 genetic mutation must be followed by hospitalization where patients can be monitored for and treated against tissue rejection.

The two recent cases are part of the IciStem program, which is a collaborative venture of researchers and clinicians dedicated to HIV eradication, according to a release from IciStem. When HIV-infected individuals are compliant with the prescribed use of the AIDS cocktail, their viral load is undetectable and they become untransmittable, meaning they can not sexually transmit the HIV virus to others. "Meanwhile focus needs to be on diagnosing HIV patients promptly and starting them on the lifelong cART treatment to help prevent further spread of the virus and provide the opportunity for those infected to live near normal life expectancy".

Top panel illustrates the treatment course for the London patient. "At the moment HIV isn't cured". Patient is in HIV remission 18 months later.

While it proved to be successful for the Berlin, London, and Düsseldorf patients, the strategy used for these cases are not the way to eradicate HIV on a large scale.

CCR5 receptor is most commonly used by the HIV-1 virus to enter cells.

Researchers say that bone marrow transplants can't be performed on HIV patients who don't have cancer due to the significant risks involved in the procedure.

The Düsseldorf patient, who has been HIV-free for three months without antiviral medication, is in rare company as one of only three people who have successfully been cured of HIV.

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