In the United States, approximately 1.1 million people are living with HIV, human immunodeficiency virus, a disease that weakens a person’s immune system by destroying cells that fight disease and infection. The untreated virus can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, known as AIDS. The United States Government is part of a global force hoping to conquer HIV and AIDS. On March 18, the 2019 National HIV Prevention Conference opened in Atlanta, Georgia. Organized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, conference leaders began discussing the goal of reducing new HIV infections by 75% in five years and by 90% in ten years. Public backing, political support, and research funding are essential to achieve this goal.
Per World Health Organization, since the start of the epidemic, more than 70 million people have been infected with the HIV virus and about 35 million people have died of HIV. At the end of 2017, globally, 36.9 million people were living with HIV. Of this number, 1.8 million were children, many of whom were born to HIV-positive mothers. HIV.gov shares that during 2017, 21.7 million people living with HIV were accessing antiretroviral therapy (ART) worldwide. The importance of HIV treatment access is key to global efforts to stop AIDS as a health threat to the public.
When HIV is left untreated, a person with AIDS can develop infections and tumors due to lack of a properly working immune system. People with AIDS who don’t take medication live for about three years on average, WebMD states. However, with medical treatment and by acquiring a healthy lifestyle, people with AIDS can live a long time. Though a cure has not yet been achieved, recently, doctors announced that an HIV-positive man in Britain became the second known adult to be cleared of the AIDS virus after receiving a bone marrow transplant from an HIV resistant donor. In 2007, an American man known as the Berlin patient underwent treatment in Germany and was cleared of HIV. The second patient, known as the London patient, underwent similar treatment and received bone marrow stem cells from a donor with a rare genetic mutation that resists HIV infection. The results show that no measurable virus was detected. Now, a third patient from Germany has been ‘cleared of HIV’ just days after the London patient.
Doctors caution that while these patients are technically in remission, and are currently described as ‘functionally cured,’ it does not necessarily mean that a life-long cure has been achieved. Ravindra Gupra, the HIV biologist who co-led the team of London doctors, shares that, for now, it is simply too early to tell. As an extensive cure is being sought, people with HIV are currently encouraged to seek treatment with HIV medications to keep the virus under control. The bone marrow procedure is risky, and donors are rare, thus the procedure cannot yet be widely performed. The hope is that one day soon, whether by vaccines, antibodies, or cell or gene therapies, or another treatment, the world can conquer HIV. In addition, it is hopeful that the knowledge acquired may bring us closer to finding cures for other diseases such as cancer, as newer concepts and technologies are continually being developed.
This article is purely informational and is not a substitute for medical advice.