Is HIV ‘cured’?

Have we finally found a cure for HIV?

With the current news being so gloomy and depressing (isn’t it always?), I wanted to write an article that has some hope to it. That’s right, instead of Brexit or global warming, I am going to be talking about HIV. Which may not sound very positive, but recently in the medical field HIV has had some positive news for a change!

Before I get started, I would like to point out that many people assume AIDs and HIV are the same thing, but it’s important to note that they aren’t! HIV’s long name is, human immunodeficiency virus, as it affects a person’s immune system. HIV attacks cells in your immune system which reduces your ability to fight infections, which could mean you are more susceptible to AIDs or cancer. People with HIV contract it when HIV cells get inside their blood cells. This could be through sexual transmission as it is typically known to, but this is not always the case.

So why is HIV back in the news you ask? Basically, a patient in London is thought to have been cured of HIV. This patient has both HIV and blood cancer and got a bone marrow transplant for their blood cancer. But, it was hoped to cure both illnesses as the donor of this bone marrow has a specific mutation within their bone marrow. This mutation makes them HIV resistant. Therefore, doctors hoped that the London patient who was receiving this bone marrow transplant with this mutation would make them also resistant to HIV. Many believe that this has worked, as the patient is no longer taking medication for HIV. Sadly, it is not so simple; there is a lot of debate on this case. Many are worried that the patient is not immune to HIV as it is too early to say, meaning it’s possible that HIV could come back. But only time will tell.

Also, it is important to say that this is not a complete cure for all people with HIV; the London patient has a specific set of circumstances. Only one other person has been cured of HIV before and again it was under some pretty specific circumstances. This means that the possible cure won’t be able to help all people with HIV, because it is unlikely that all those afflicted can be treated with a bone marrow transplant.

However, I’m not saying everything is hopeless. This situation is pretty remarkable for medical science! It was typically believed that HIV was incurable, so finding a possible cure however uncertain is great news. It may not be a finalised cure, but it is a beacon of hope for the future. It is important that we celebrate all wins, however small they may seem!

For now, there are many things we can do in response to HIV and AIDs. It is vitally important that everyone is educated on what HIV is because many people with HIV don’t know that they have it. Also, we need to actively stop the stigma that surrounds HIV. People who are HIV positive have an illness, not anything else. It does not determine their ‘lifestyle’ or their race; it was no ones choice to get HIV. We should be more supportive of the people who have been diagnosed with HIV, as it’s the humane thing to do.

 

If you want more information on ending the stigma around HIV and AIDs here are a number of links for you: