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A cure for HIV infection is one of the ultimate long-term goals of research today. The science is expanding, raising hopes and challenges.

The term “cure” refers to strategies that would eliminate HIV from a person’s body, or permanently control the virus and render it unable to cause disease. A range of strategies being discussed today.

A “sterilizing” cure would completely eliminate the virus.

A “functional” cure would suppress HIV viral load, keeping it below the level of detection without the use of antiretrovirals for treatment (ART). The virus would not be eliminated from the body but would be effectively controlled and prevented from causing any illness.

“Remission” refers to undetectable virus that may or may not return because a low level of latent virus.

Researchers are still trying to define these terms and which strategies will work. Although some possible cases of functional cures have been reported, it takes time to be certain that HIV can no longer cause disease—because even very low levels of virus can increase the risk of illness and ultimately lead to AIDS.

Some cure strategies under investigation are carry potential risks. Communicating the risks and benefits of cure strategies to potential trial participants will be an important part of any cure clinical trial. Interrupting treatment will be an important element in cure trials in order to test viral rebound. No standardized guidelines exist yet for such “treatment interruptions” to minimize risks for cure trial participants. Finally, cure strategies may look different for men, women and children—biological differences between sexes, and differences in adult versus pediatric immune systems mean a “one size fits all” approach to a cure is unlikely. AVAC is working with partners to track, translate and accelerate cure research.

What We're Reading

When the news came out last month that a New York woman was likely cured of HIV/AIDS by the same cord blood transplant she had received to save her from leukemia, Dr. Filippo Milano’s telephone at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center began to ring.

March 16, 2022

Every year, a few young minds from different parts of the world aspire to work at the grassroots to understand and mitigate advocacy and research problems towards an HIV cure. These are made possible jointly through the International AIDS Society (Int. AIDS Society) Towards an HIV cure initiative and AVAC awarding fellowship to talented advocates who are working in the HIV field in resource-limited settings and who are interested in HIV care-related advocacy.

March 10, 2022

A New York City woman has been cured of HIV. Her doctors at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital made the announcement last week. We need to be careful - this is not the first time a cure has been announced. In at least two other instances, the patient relapsed.

February 21, 2022
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