With all our advancement in the field of HIV treatment we have yet to move an inch in the field of HIV cure. For the past ten years or so the advancement in this field had failed to provide either a vaccine or a cure for HIV or AIDS. This is frustrating but there is no denying the fact that it’s before long we can find a viable solution.
Have we made any progress then?
Yes, we have. On an average, new HIV infections have decreased from 3.3 million in 2002 to 2.3 million in 2012. This is no ordinary feat. This information comes from Professor Sharon Lewin of Monash University who co-authored a review article in “The Lancet.”
As per this review, the people who had negligible chances of survival before 2002 are now living longer and better. This would not have been possible except for the rapid advancement in this field for the past 10 years. New infections have decreased by a million in the last decade–from 3.3 million in 2002 to 2.3 million in 2012. Deaths related to AIDS that peaked in 2005 and reached 2.3 million globally has now come down to 1.6 million by 2012.
Use of clean needles and condoms have yielded good results but the decline in new HIV cases can be truly attributed to this advancement. As per professor Lewin who heads of the Department of Infectious Diseases at the University this is a considerable achievement.
“These ‘biomedical prevention’ strategies have had a major impact in reducing the number of new infections,” Professor Lewin said.
This advancement has delivered a very important break-through. When an HIV-infected person is treated with anti-HIV drugs it dramatically reduces the chances of the individual being infectious. So, in overall, when the number of people with effective treatment goes up the number of transmissions comes down. With this result we can control the outcome till we find a vaccine. In HIV most of the people fall short of creating effective antibodies. With this treatment alone some people can make good antibodies.
“However, a small number of people make very good antibody responses to HIV — what is called ‘broadly neutralizing antibodies’,” Professor Lewin said.
“These ‘broadly neutralizing antibodies’ are very effective at combating a wide range of strains of HIV. We now have very smart ways to make these antibodies using test tube models, which gives hope for new effective vaccines against HIV.”
Professor Lewin said treatment against HIV was highly effective but needed to be life-long as there was no cure for the virus.
“A cure for HIV is now considered to be a major scientific priority,” Professor Lewin said.
“We now have a very good understanding of why current treatments don’t cure HIV. Because the HIV manages to get into our cells and attacks the DNA to ultimately become a part of it and deceive the future detection methods.
“There is a lot of work being done, including in the Department of Infectious Diseases at Monash, using new ways to ‘wake up’ the sleeping virus to make it visible to drugs and the immune system. If we can see them we can fight them too. This is one approach that one day might lead to a cure,” Professor Lewin said.
Well, if we can reduce the number of infections, we can reduce the spread. If we can make the virus to wake up, we can see them. But, in spite of all this we still remain pathetically away from a satisfactory answer. We are in a “Scientific Emergency” to take on HIV, there is no denying this.