HIV Possible Cure Hampered by Lack of Funding

KC Kelly Ph.D.'s picture

We may be experiencing a revolutionary step forward in the fight against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) with a possible HIV and AIDS cure, according to HIV researchers and a special report from ABC News. HIV researchers really hadn't ever held onto any hope for finding a cure for this horrific disease; however, they are now finding themselves one step closer with higher expectations than ever that they can prevent the spread of the disease.

Experts a the International AIDS Conference found clinical data showing an apparent HIV cure in a single case of HIV and "some technical advances that make it easier to track very low levels of HIV infection". Researchers are still held back; however, by lack of funding for HIV/AIDS research and also by the lack of understanding of how HIV effects and attacks the human body.

A two-day workship called "Towards a Cure," led by Nobel laureate Francoise Barre-Sinoussi was held last week, right before the start of the AIDS conference to discuss the possibilities for an HIV cure. The workshop discussed many imperative topics about AIDS. According to ABC News, these were some of the questions the workshop covered: What are the clinical implications of HIV persistence under treatment? Where and how does HIV hide from the immune system and anti-HIV drugs? How does HIV persist? What are potential therapeutic interventions and how can they be evaluated?

Barre-Sinoussi, who was one of the researchers involved in identifying the human immunodeficiency virus, stated, "We can certainly do better. There is no equivalent for research into remission or functional cure." Maureen Goodenow of the University of Florida stated, "One thing that is clear is that current therapies can only control the virus, not eradicate it. That's because the virus persists, even when it is undetectable in plasma in "diverse" cells and physical locations."

An HIV cure could still be far off, but at least there is more hope than ever that the spread of the disease may be closer to being halted then ever before. Dr. Frank Maldarelli of the National Cancer Institute, may not be as positive, but he stated, "All the drugs we have now available only affect active replication. Controlling replication is enough to keep a patient alive and well, but won't have any effect on cells in which the virus is lying dormant. So it's critical to know if the virus can piggyback on cells without replication, since there's evidence that simple growth of such cells is enough to allow the virus to spread, even when it is not actively replicating."

The most positive data shared at the conference was of the recent case of a bone marrow transplant that appears to have cured a man of HIV. Dr. Gero Hutter of Berlin's Charite-Medical University, shared that this particular patient remains well and off antiretroviral drugs two years after the transplant. According to Carl Dieffenbach, who directs the AIDS division at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, "That's one of the "breakthroughs and changes in the science" that have renewed interest in searching for a cure."

Researchers are now attempting to replicate this last study to see if this HIV cure can hold true for other HIV infected patients as well. One major obstacle is lack of funding for HIV and AIDS research.

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