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UK: National AIDS Trust: ‘We are getting closer to a cure for HIV’

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  1. This is yet another step on the road to finding a “functional cure” for people who have contracted HIV – BUT we should be very cautious about what this means in practical terms.

    The study was able to identify those with very early (primary infection) which is in stark contrast to what happens here in the UK in practice; up to 50% of new HIV infections are diagnosed “late” where the CD4 cell count has fallen below 350, & as a result HIV has formed widespread latent reservoirs which enable to the virus to replicate in the absence of treatment.

    It seems that very early treatment may be able to prevent these latent reservoirs developing, thus the immune system is better able to manage the infection naturally without drug intervention.

    Much more research is required on this, but it is a very exciting step forward in piecing together a long lasting cure for HIV – but we need to keep it in perspective.

    Early diagnosis is essential & may offer future benefits in terms of treatment options.

    1. We need to do more to promote the signs of primary infection, which upto 70% of newly diagnosed individuals get. The development of rash, fever & sore throat at the same time can indicate early HIV infection.

      If individuals are treated very soon after infection this not only reduces thier chances of passing HIV on but also may provide them with more options in the future when it comes to treatment or no treatment.

      I really hope that HIV Prevention England in the up & coming campaigns will promote the signs & symptoms of primary HIV infection & encourage very early testing – I would encourage anyone who has had any unprotected sex to get tested within 4 weeks of possible exposure to HIV regardless if they have symptoms.

      Whilst condom use must still be promoted we must also continue to look at other ways of reducing HIV incidence amongst MSM which include regular & early testing, treatment in primary infection & tell MSM how to spot the symptoms following an unsafe encounter.

    2. ChrisMorley 15 Mar 2013, 5:26pm

      This study didn’t look for people with early infection; it looked back at 70 people who had stopped taking their HIV treatment.

      Only 14 of the 70 people who began treatment less than 10 weeks after they were infected, and later stopped taking treatment after an average of three years, were found to have benefited from this ‘functional cure’.

      It is not clear what is different about these 14 people. One difference that might be significant, is that most of these 14 were started on treatment very early because their bodies had reacted strongly to getting HIV.

      The search continues for the explanation(s) of why a minority of people who begin treatment very soon after infection go on to benefit from a ‘functional cure’, while most people starting treatment early do not have a ‘functional cure’.

      Plain English news report at New Scientist http://www.newscientist.com/ar

      Medical Journal report (highly scientific – but try Discussion section) : http://www.plospathogens.org/a

      1. ChrisMorley 16 Mar 2013, 5:49pm

        The UK expert HIV treatment website aidsmap now has a plain English explanation of the scientific findings and what the future may hold:

        http://www.aidsmap.com/Functional-cure-after-early-HIV-therapy-may-be-more-common-than-we-thought/page/2602347/

    3. ChrisMorley 15 Mar 2013, 5:43pm

      This study didn’t look for people with early HIV infection. It looked back at 70 people who stopped taking HIV treatment.

      Only 14 of the 70 people who began treatment within 10 weeks of their infection, and later stopped treatment (after an average of three years) were found to have benefited from this ‘functional cure’.

      It is not clear what is different about these 14 people. One difference that might be significant, is that most of these 14 were started on treatment very early because they had reacted badly to HIV infection.

      The search continues for the explanation(s) of why a minority of people who begin treatment very soon after infection go on to benefit from a ‘functional cure’ while most people starting treatment early do not have a ‘functional cure’.

      New Scientist http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23276-more-hiv-cured-first-a-baby-now-14-adults.html

      Medical Journal: http://www.plospathogens.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.ppat.1003211

  2. The big challenge for all those extraordinary men and women in white coats working in the world’s many laboratories is to get effective drugs beyond the blood-stream and into the body’s “viral reservoirs” so as to entirely kill off ALL HIV in the body.

    And the way they are going at the moment, I feel that sooner, rather than later, some of them are going to crack it.

    1. It is not a case of getting the drugs into the viral reservoirs it is a case of being able to get rid of all the HIV DNA that becomes embedded in the latent cells – this is a huge challenge. HIV embeds its own DNA into the human DNA in the CD4 cell, which can then lay dormant for up to 70 yrs it is thought, maybe longer.

      Until we can identify a way of activating all these resting cells & flushing out the latent HIV or provide gene therapy that will modify the immune response to HIV we will always have to somehow contain the potential for the virus to become active again.

      There is lots happening but it is a bit of a jig saw & will take time to get all the pieces in the right places

  3. By the way, all those posters here who last week insisted that pornography does not inculcate habits or change people’s ways of behaving, have a look at the following article.

    The article details how that mildly pornographic novel “50 Shades of Grey” has, in fact, led to an increase in sales in UK sex shops!

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/mar/14/ann-summers-fifty-shades-trilogy

    Pornography “educates”.

  4. Forgive me for once again saying “CRAP”!!!!

    This minority are more likely people who are dubbed the “long term survivors” aka they have some genetic protection from hiv, keeping it in check. Last week was the baby on PEP, that some how was called a cure even tho people beeing doing it for like 2 decades now.

    1. ChrisMorley 16 Mar 2013, 5:41pm

      In fact you are wrong.
      These 14 people are very different from the far less than 1% of people with HIV who you describe as “long term survivors” because they have a gene that helps control HIV.

      “The Post Treatment Controllers [the 14 people with the 'functional cure'], on the other hand, tended to have HLA types that were highly responsive to HIV, strongly associated with fast disease progression, and tended to have had primary HIV infection characterised by high viral loads and severe symptoms (which is why many started early treatment). Post-treatment, however, their immune response was characterised by a lack of CD8+ cell responses to HIV – and a lack of activated CD8+ T-cells.”

      The expert UK HIV treatment website aidsmap describes the scientific findings here: http://www.aidsmap.com/Functional-cure-after-early-HIV-therapy-may-be-more-common-than-we-thought/page/2602347/

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