With a reported £5-7 billion dollars being spent on AIDS research annually, with very slow progress on the cure , many AIDS patients are beginning to lose hope for a chance to be rid of their disease. The trouble with AIDS is that it is a very new disease, one which has evolved to become immune to most forms of traditional therapy. Scientists are working very hard to unlock the secrets that will cure the 85,000 people living with AIDS in England and the rest worldwide.
There are several methods to manage the progression of the disease, the most common of which is the high active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). This consists of a “cocktail” of at least three medications, with medications from at least two types of antiretroviral agents. Receiving vaccinations for hepatitis A and B also seems to slow the progression of the disease. Mostly used as a preventive measure before infection, it is also sometimes effective after infection.
Hope for the Future
However, there seems to have been recent developments that would suggest that we are getting closer to a cure for the disease. According to a study presented at the 19th Annual International AIDS Conference, two American men have reportedly been cured of the disease. Both men had contracted cancer- a common occurrence for HIV patients- and had been given stem cell transplants. Doctors now can’t find any trace of HIV in their bodies. This is similar to the story of “The Berlin Patient” – Timothy Ray Brown – who was famously the first person cured of HIV and had received similar stem cell treatments for his cancer.
In a study published in Nature, a report of the results of new experimental treatments was published. Drugs were used to wake up dormant HIV cells so that the antiretroviral drugs would be more effective in destroying the virus. This fresh approach to using the drug has opened up a new avenue of research and scientists say that we may be closer to a cure now.
Another study concerning French patients recounts how 14 patients were given treatment for weeks before they were infected and they continued this treatment for three years and then stopped altogether. Now, years later, they seem to have no HIV or very little of it in their bodies. A similar result has been observed in a baby born from an HIV positive mother who was treated with the drugs after he was born and in two years had no HIV.
Researchers at the University of Illinois are also working on the problem using advanced computer models to find weaknesses in the virus. They have made a breakthrough recently and discovered the exact nature of the virus’s outer protective layer. This means that they can now work on finding a way to crack through the protection of the virus.
It is important to realize that the money spent on research and the thousands of extremely dedicated professionals involved in finding a cure for this disease are working tirelessly to help the people infected with the disease. Although we should all exercise greater care in preventing the spread of the disease, we can still retain hope that the cure is on the horizon.
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