Is There a Cure for HIV? Here's What You Should Know

October 9, 2023
4 min
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There is considerable interest in finding a cure for HIV, as the virus has serious implications for both individuals and society. In this article, we will provide an overview of the current state of HIV cure research, including information about HIV cures, HIV testing, symptoms of HIV, and the symptoms of HIV in men and in women. Join our Emory University HIV Community Cure Research Event this Sunday, October 15th in Atlanta!

HIV Cure Research

An HIV cure is any treatment that stops the replication of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in human cells.

In other words, it is anything that prevents the cells in your body from becoming infected or killing the cells that are already infected. There is currently no cure for HIV, but researchers are working towards developing effective vaccines and drug therapies that could one day help to control the virus and prevent it from spreading.

Early-phase clinical trials have yielded promising results indicating that some vaccines could eliminate all traces of the virus from the body within several years.

However, the development of an effective vaccine is likely to take a long time and will not be a cure in the usual sense of the word. It will be more like a booster shot that provides long-lasting protection against infection. In the meantime, researchers hope that a new drug treatment will become available. Unlike a vaccine, a drug therapy can target and kill infected cells throughout the body. Although it will not be able to completely eradicate the virus, it could help to control its spread and reduce the risk of developing complications such as AIDS. Some experts predict that this type of drug could be available within the next two decades.

Currently there are several research projects underway aimed at developing a cure, like our partnership with Emory University's ERASE HIV research collaboratory. Researchers have been exploring the use of stem cells as a potential treatment for HIV infection. Stem cells are cells that have the ability to turn into any other type of cell in the body.

A study published in 2016 found that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have the ability to kill HIV-infected cells and reduce inflammation. Another study found that bone marrow mononuclear cells are able to inhibit the spread of the virus to uninfected cells in a laboratory setting. Based on these results, researchers have proposed using stem cells as a treatment for HIV infection.

In addition, researchers have conducted studies on different types of gene therapy for HIV treatment. In 2015, scientists in Brazil reported that they had successfully treated four patients with the HIV virus by using modified immune cells called T cells. Other studies conducted at the U.S. National Cancer Institute have shown that gene therapy can also be used to reduce the level of HIV in the blood of patients infected with the virus.

These findings have important implications for the development of a cure for HIV. Several clinical trials are currently ongoing to assess the effectiveness of these treatments.

In addition to stem cell therapies and gene therapy, researchers are exploring the possibility of using a preventive vaccine to treat people infected with HIV. This type of vaccine would be similar to the Gardasil vaccine that is used against HPV. However, developing a vaccine to protect against HIV has proven to be more challenging than developing a vaccine against HPV. One potential solution to this problem is to develop two vaccines that would be administered several months apart. The first vaccine would be used to help boost the immune system and prevent the onset of the disease. The second vaccine would then be administered to people who are already infected with HIV to boost the immune response and reduce the severity of the disease.

This type of vaccine has not yet been developed and is currently in clinical trials.

ERASE HIV and Emory University

SisterLove and Emory University are currently working in collaboration on ERASE HIV, a research initiative to develop a cure to eradicate the virus.

The National Institutes of Health, through the Martin Delaney Collaboratories for HIV Cure Research, invested about $53 million into developing a cure for HIV. It represents the largest annual amount the consortium has awarded, and the funding will continue for five years. Emory has already developed anti-HIV drugs Emtriva and Epivir, which are able to suppress viral loads in most people who are infected with the virus.

However, HIV has the ability to hide inside the body and return when patients stop taking medication. Several other types of anti-HIV drugs are also in development. These drugs are designed to block the activity of different proteins on the surface of the virus that prevent it from infecting other cells. Drugs of this type have been highly effective in treating patients who have run out of treatment options but have not yet been able to fully eliminate the virus from their bodies.

Multiple studies have shown the effectiveness of these drugs in slowing the progression of the disease and extending the lives of patients infected with HIV.

HIV Testing and Symptoms

The most reliable method of testing for HIV infection is through a blood test.

Blood tests can reveal whether or not a person is infected with the virus as well as the extent of their infection. They can also detect the presence of certain antibodies produced by the body in response to an infection. An antibody is protein made by the immune system to fight foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. There are several different types of blood tests used to detect HIV infection.

The most common type of test is a rapid test that detects the presence or absence of antibodies against the virus. The results from a test of this kind are available within 30 minutes and can confirm the diagnosis if a positive result is obtained. Other types of tests can be used to determine how far along the infection has progressed in the body and to determine the level of resistance an individual has to the effects of antiretroviral drugs.

People with HIV experience a wide range of symptoms that depend on how advanced the infection has become and whether the patient is receiving treatment or not. Many people with HIV experience no symptoms at all in the early stages of the disease. Otherwise, people may experience a combination of symptoms, including:

  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Headaches or pain behind the eyes
  • Muscle pain and joint pain
  • Night sweats
  • Diarrhea and/or vomiting
  • Weight loss of greater than two pounds per week
  • Fever of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit for several days without a clear cause
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, groin, underarm, or chest area
  • Intestinal problems that cause bloating, gas, cramping, and bloody stools

Early symptoms of the disease can include mild fevers and flu-like symptoms such as sore throats, headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, and inflammation of the eyes or joints. As the disease progresses, these symptoms tend to get worse and may include persistent fevers, weight loss, diarrhea, and unexplained bleeding or bruising. People who have advanced HIV infection may develop anemia, a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body. This can lead to weakness, shortness of breath, and fatigue.

If you, or someone you know, needs to get tested for HIV, get a free CDC-funded I Want 2 Know (#IW2K) HIV home self-testing kit today. Visit our request form or text “IW2K” to (877) 861-3887.

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