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Curing HIV?

Can we really rid the body of HIV?

The short answer is Yes and No. The long answer is a little more complicated than you might think….

The other week, news spread that a 44 year-old man had been cured of HIV. German researchers announced that American patient Tim Brown had his entire immune system “rebooted” and was now free of and had been free of, HIV for three years. The achievement was considered a breakthrough, one that opened the door to repairing and restoring a healthy immune system to those who’d had theirs taken from them by HIV.

But did it?

There were several caveats to the story, specific features in the fine print that modifies the excitement somewhat with this game-changing announcement.

First, at the time of his procedure, Brown was suffering from Acute Myelitoid Leukemia. The cancer was exacerbated by the HIV, with the malignancy killing him faster than the ticking, HIV time-bomb. Researchers on the case decided that the best way to save his life was to do a bone marrow transplant, giving his body the tools needed to fight off the cancer causing cells. What was interesting though is that Dr.Huettner looked for stem-cells that were naturally resistant to HIV infection, mutants that couldn’t really catch the virus that eventually causes AIDS.

Note that the mutant CCR5 stem cells occur in only 1% of the Caucasian population. Brown had to not only be matched to a stem cell donor who was genetically compatible with him, but he also had to have a match that contained the HIV fighting genes. Remarkably, this was achieved. However, for African Americans and Asian Americans, there is no evidence that they carry the HIV fighting, stem-cell variant.

The other tough thing about this is that in order to make this transplant work, you have to effectively destroy his existing immune system. High doses of chemo and radiation. Horrible stuff. It’s not that easy to do and it has a 1 in 3 chance of killing the patient. Those are odds that a lot of doctors aren’t willing to take.

On a mass scale, this procedure is too expensive, too narrow and too dicey to work. It won’t give everyone suffering from AIDS their immune system back — and it might even kill them in the process. It does hold up a bit of hope, giving us some real confirmation that it’s possible to eradicate HIV from the body and restore the immune system in the process.

It remains true that the best way to keep a body free from HIV is to not get it in the first place — a daunting task. However, along side this news came accompanying information about a < ahref=”″> new prophylactic pill that reduces infections by up to 70% , a microbicidal gell that can stop HIV dead and a vaccine that can produce antibodies to stop the virus. Oh, and the old standby: condoms.

As we move further into the 21st Century, we have an increasing number of effective tools to reduce, prevent and eradicate the source of much human misery. Happy New Year indeed.

Source: Huffington Post.


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