Rare documented cases of HIV-positive people who no longer have the virus have given some health experts hope that an HIV cure is possible.
Talk of a cure is part of the International AIDS Conference that has drawn thousands of health experts, scientists, activists, and policy makers to Washington, D.C. to discuss new research and trade information about the global epidemic.
“That the research around HIV cure is so prominent at AIDS 2012 is proof of where the science has come these past few years, we now actively talk of potential scientific solutions in a way perhaps we weren´t some years ago,” said event co-chair Dr. Diane Havlir in a news release.
While a cure is not imminent, scientists are optimistic because of cases like Timothy Brown, who is the only person known to be cured of AIDS via a stem cell transplant he got to treat his leukemia. Those cells carried a natural genetic mutation that causes a resistance to HIV.
The Washington Post reported Brown announced the start of a foundation to raise money for research to search for an HIV cure.
Health experts are also keeping an eye on small groups of people called “elite controllers” who have the HIV infection but no traces of virus in their blood. Also of interest is a cluster of HIV-positive patients in France who were treated early, stopped therapy, and have no recurrence of the infection.
More conference-related news:
- Efforts to tamp down teens’ risky sexual behavior may have stalled, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. Statistics from the national Youth Risk Behavior Survey from 1991 to 2011 showed that decreases were seen in sexual experience and having multiple sex partners in the early part of the survey, but those drops halted starting in 2001. More condom use didn’t change substantially starting in 2003. In 2009, the CDC says, people age 15 to 29 made up 21 percent of the country’s population, but accounted for 39 percent of all new HIV infections.
- Women infected with the HIV virus may not be at higher risk for developing cervical cancer compared to women who are HIV-negative. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. followed about 400 women infected with HIV, and about 300 women without the virus. All tested negative for tumor-inducing human papillomavirus DNA at the beginning of the study. After following the women for five years, researchers found none of the women had cancer, and no differences were seen between the groups in the risk of cervical precancer, which was low overall.
- In a speech at the conference, Microsoft founder Bill Gates said that despite advances in HIV and AIDS-related treatment and prevention, there is still much more to do. “Is the end clearly in sight? No,” he was quoted as saying in the Huffington Post. “Do we have the tools that will bring about the end? No.” Wealthy nations, he added, are dealing with fiscal challenges that could affect AIDS Funding. The Post said the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given $2.5 billion so far in HIV-related grants and earmarked another $1.4 billion for the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
What has been the most surprising news for you from the AIDS Conference? Let us know in the comments.