UN’s AIDS agency ‘greatly encouraged’ by latest scientific breakthrough showing cure is possible

Donald Bliss/NLM/NIH 3D structure of HIV infected (blue, green) and uninfected (brown, purple) T cells interacting. The possibility of a cure preventing HIV infection was highlighted for the first time since 2007, by a case in London, publicized on 5 March 2019.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


The UN agency leading the global effort to end AIDS, said on Tuesday that a new case of a patient who has been “functionally cured” of HIV infection, is greatly encouraging, but there is still a long way to go before the illness can be eradicated.

The male patient, who was being treated for lymphatic cancer at a London hospital in the United Kingdom, underwent a stem cell transplant in 2016, with cells from a donor carrying a rare genetic resistance to the HIV virus.

Both his cancer and HIV went into remission, and 18 months on, he is no longer taking HIV drugs and all traces of infection have become undetectable, according to doctors treating him. Researchers reportedly say that it is too early, however, to say the patient has been fully cured.

“UNAIDS is greatly encouraged by the news that an HIV-positive man has been functionally cured of HIV”, said the agency in a press statement.

“Although this breakthrough is complicated and much more work is needed, it gives us great hope for the future that we could potentially end AIDS with science, through a vaccine or a cure,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS.

“However, it also shows how far away we are from that point,” he added saying it emphasized “the absolute importance of continuing to focus HIV prevention and treatment efforts.”

Treatment ‘not viable’ for large numbers of patients

The agency stressed that as stem cell transplants are “highly complex, intensive and costly procedures with substantial side-effects”, they were not a “viable way of treating large numbers of people living with HIV.”

“However, the results do offer a greater insight for researchers working on HIV cure strategies and highlight the continuing importance of investing in scientific research and innovation,” added UNAIDS.

The so far anonymous London patient, is only the second reported case of a functional cure for HIV, the first being a patient in the German capital, Berlin, who received similar cancer treatment in 2007.

There is currently no cure, and UNAIDS is working to ensure that all people living with and affected by HIV have access to life-saving HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services.

In 2017 – the latest annual figures available – there were just under 37 million people living with HIV and 1.8 million people became newly infected with the virus. In the same year, almost 1 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses and 21.7 million people had access to treatment.

Stigma and discrimination against HIV, continue to hold back key vulnerable population groups such as sex-workers, transgender people, intravenous drug users and migrants, and only one in four, living with HIV, are aware of their status.

Marking World AIDS Day in November, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, said that the world stood at a “critical juncture”, and the direction of the response to the on-going epidemic, would determine whether or not the world could end AIDS by 2030, in line with the UNAIDS Fast-Track Strategy and the Sustainable Development Goals.           

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Comments

  1. Svitlana Vorozhbitova says:

    “Last chance to find out …”.
    This is a teacher’s address to parents of graduates of schools and their teachers.
    Do you think you should start worrying about the independent lives of your children right now?
    In each new school year, I had to conduct two mandatory lessons on HIV / AIDS in senior classes, which are always positively perceived by children. And for the teacher conducting a lesson has always been easy, without stress, because the teaching method was specifically designed for teachers with any level of training on this topic. From the many years of practice teaching this topic, it was concluded that every adult can and should contribute to HIV prevention.
    We must help the youth! Absolutely everyone can do it, regardless of financial condition. For example, even if a person simply shares this information that in international practice there are specific lessons on HIV / AIDS prevention for high school students. And this person who shares this information will surely save the lives of several young people at once. These lessons have such power! And it’s always easy to check! Simply, children should get an opportunity to learn about the rules of survival in the modern world during the global HIV / AIDS epidemic! But only on special lessons meant for them. Other chaotic information without tracking perception of the topic may not protect young people from the danger of infection.
    Dear parents and teachers! Take advantage of this last chance for your children and teach them to protect themselves from HIV / AIDS before they leave school. Do not be indifferent to the fact that your children can leave school without this special knowledge! Check out this situation with queries at the level of parent associations! After all, the state guarantees high school students such knowledge! The question is whether parents and teachers will be interested in these special lessons and will they want to use them! Do not leave your children alone with a dangerous HIV / AIDS disease!
    To Study this Topic You Will Need:
    1. HIV/AIDS Prevention: Workbook for High School Students (author: S. Vorozhbytova).
    2. HIV/AIDS Prevention: Methodical Recommendations for the Teacher: 2 Lessons for a Safe and Healthy Life (author: S. Vorozhbytova).
    3. HIV / AIDS Prevention: Tests for High School Students (author: S. Vorozhbytova).
    All of them are published on Amazon.com: Books.

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