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HIV cure breakthrough on the horizon

HIV cure breakthrough on the horizon

Researchers are optimistic about a new technique that could lead to a breakthrough in curing HIV.

Danish scientists are readying the human trials for a potentially life-saving new HIV treatment, and if it is deemed a success, it is hopeful 2013 could be the year there is a cure for the virus.

The possibly revolutionary technique involves releasing the HIV virus from ‘reservoirs’ it forms inside DNA, bringing it to the surface of the cells.

Once it comes to the surface, the body’s natural immune system can kill the virus through being boosted by a ‘vaccine’.

With an extra 12 million kroner ($2.11m, €1.61m) from the Danish Research Council to pursue the research, doctors will expand the trials if any of the 15 patients are found to have been successfully cured of HIV.

‘I am almost certain that we will be successful in releasing the reservoirs of HIV,’ Dr Ole Søgaard said in a news conference.

‘The challenge will be getting the patients’ immune system to recognize the virus and destroy it. This depends on the strength and sensitivity of individual immune systems.’

Back in March, doctors were able to ‘functionally cure’ a newborn, HIV-positive girl with aggressive anti-retroviral drugs starting just 30 hours after birth.

Once treatment ceased nearly two years later, virus levels were so low they remained undetectable.

In 2006, Timothy Ray Brown, who had HIV, developed leukaemia and had a bone marrow transplant from a donor with a rare mutation that made his cells resistant to HIV. A year later, he became the first man to ever be reportedly fully cured of the disease.

Yusef Azad, Director of Policy at the National AIDS Trust (NAT) said of the recent Danish study into a cure for HIV: ‘2013 has been an exciting year of progress towards a HIV cure.

‘This Danish study is yet more evidence that we are growing our understanding of HIV, how it affects the body and how we could one day hope to cure people living with the virus.
 
‘It is heartening to see studies like this getting the funding they need and that the momentum towards a cure is gathering pace. We will be watching with interest how the clinical human trials develop.  
 
‘As Dr Søgaard rightfully points out this is not a vaccine. Protecting yourself and others by using condoms and not sharing needles is still the most efficient and cost-effective way to prevent HIV. 

‘Until we have a cure it is also important that people to get tested so if they do have HIV they can access the excellent treatment we already have available.’