Analysis: A Cure For AIDS?

Analysis: A Cure For AIDS?

A baby girl has been "functionally cured" of HIV in the US. The difference it will make to her life could be huge - avoiding a lifetime of medication, social stigma and worries about whether to tell friends and family. But beyond the personal story, there is a huge question - does this bring us any closer to an HIV cure?

There are very special circumstances involved in the US case. Doctors were able to hit the virus hard and early. This is not possible in adults, who will acquire HIV months if not years before they find out.

Even in the UK, where at-risk groups are offered free regular testing - one in four people with HIV are unaware they have the virus. By the time they find out, it will be fully established - hiding away in reservoirs in the immune system that no therapy around can touch.

A cure is something we can no longer write off as impossible”

Dr John Frater University of Oxford It is also unclear how a newborn's immune system, babies still get much of their protection from their mother through breast milk, may affect treatment.

One thing is certain - this approach is not going to provide a cure for the vast majority of people with HIV.

So what about about somebody who has been living with HIV for a decade? Any hope of a cure for them?

The first thing to note is that HIV is not the killer it used to be.

It first emerged in Africa in the early 20th Century and became a global health problem by the 1980s. In the early days, there was no treatment, never mind talk of a cure.

The virus claimed the lives of more than 25 million people in the past three decades, according to the World Health Organization.

Then, good antiretroviral therapies emerged in the mid-1990s and the impact it had on the number of deaths was dramatic.

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