What is the current state of the HIV cure?

As of 2016, there is one confirmed case of HIV cure, that of Timothy Ray Brown also known as The Berlin Patient. Diagnosed with HIV in 1995 while studying in Berlin, Germany in 2007, he underwent stem cell transplantation from a donor with a rare gene mutation.

The gene mutation renders a person resistant to HIV infection by disabling its entry into susceptible cells that express an identifying marker on their cell surface. Brown, born in 1966 is considered completely cured, sterile cure as in no longer harbouring HIV in his body. He is off the antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Two Boston patients in the United States of America (USA) were also treated using stem cell transplantation though not from donors with the gene mutation. However, they experienced relapse.

Another group known as the Visconti cohort is a group of 14 French patients who started ART within the first few weeks of getting HIV infection. In remission now for 12 years and counting, they are considered ‘functionally’ cured of HIV, albeit continuing to harbour HIV, but no longer needing to take ART.

The same group also reported similar outcome for a perinatally infected case treated from birth for at least the first five years. This patient remained in remission when re-examined at length at 18 years of age.

The Mississippi baby is another case diagnosed as HIV positive at birth and treated with powerful ART starting from the first hours of life. However, it suffered a relapse in 2014, this was after being on ART for the first 18 months followed by a full 27 months of remission.

Clearly, HIV’s ability to become latent is a challenge both for effective anti-HIV immunity and for accurate assessments of disease status. In such a situation a person may appear aviremic, with no virus detected in circulation, but yet have sufficient virus within latently infected cells to trigger relapse.

This remains the main obstacle to finding an HIV Cure.

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HIV test kit

Would you like an HIV test kit with your noodles? Students at a Chinese university now have the option to test themselves for HIV at their convenience, as they can now purchase affordable testing kits in vending machines.

The urine test kits cost approximately $4.40 (about K3 200) and are sold next to instant noodles and other snacks at Southwest Petroleum University in Nanchong City in southwestern China. The province has a high prevalence of HIV and Aids, and was among the top three Chinese provinces, that accounted for nearly half of China’s half million cases at the end of 2014, according to China’s 2015 Aids report.

So how does the test system work? Well, students use the HIV kits by taking their own urine samples and sending them back to a lab to be tested, the university’s school medical center said. The process is anonymous and the test results can be accessed online.—Additional information from Forbes.com

 

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