UK doctors and researchers working on an HIV cure have reported amazing observations on a patient that became virus-free after being treated. The treatment is part of a research funded by the NHS and is being conducted by Britain’s top five universities.
The first patient to finish the treatment program was observed to have no HIV in his blood, based on initial tests conducted on him. However, more tests are required before declaring the treatment a success, especially that HIV has resurfaced in patients that were supposedly healed through other methods. This is a positive news nonetheless, and I’m very much happy to share it.
The treatment involved combining the usual antiretrovirals with a dormant HIV reactivator and a vaccine that makes the immune system eliminate infected cells. By themselves, antiretroviral drugs are actually quite good in preventing HIV from reproducing. However, they can not completely eliminate the virus, so patients have to take them forever.
HIV can hide in dormant cells, where they can’t be harmed by the immune system or by medication, and where they can’t even be detected by the best test methods. The treatment’s strategy is to trick HIV into exposing itself, and then to kick-start the immune system into attacking it once it does so.
Confirming that a patient is completely HIV free is difficult, as was realized by researchers in the case of a Mississippi girl. The girl was put through aggressive rounds of antiretrovirals immediately after her HIV positive mother gave birth to her in 2010. The girl was virus-free five months after that, but was not so two years later.
That said, there is already a person that is believed to be totally cured of HIV. His name is Timothy Ray Brown, and was dubbed as “The Berlin Patient” (he was treated in Germany but is an American citizen). Brown required a bone marrow transplant, wherein stem cells swapped out his cancerous cells. Luckily, his physician found a donor who was naturally immune to HIV.
Anyway, I am praying that this story will continue in a positive direction. And hopefully, we will one day wake up to a morning in a world that is free from HIV.