The International AIDS Conference in Montreal is a historic one, as two teams of scientists unveiled findings that mark a giant leap forward in finding a true cure for HIV/AIDS.
According to them,
Researchers from the U.S. and Spain announced two new success stories indicating that not only is viral remission for the disease possible, some patients’ immune systems may also be rebuilt using stem cell therapy, as NBC News reported.
One patient in particular has made history as the fifth-ever person to be completely cured of HIV.
That patient, a 66-year-old man fighting leukemia, received HIV-resistant stem cells via a bone marrow transplant three years ago at the City of Hope National Medical Center in Los Angeles. After closely monitoring his blood for 17 months, doctors say there is now no trace of HIV in his system, even without the use of antiretroviral drugs. Over time, the donor stem cells effectively overwrote the patient’s immune system, preventing further replication of the virus.
The patient said in a statement obtained by the BBC,
When I was diagnosed with HIV in 1988, like many others, I thought it was a death sentence.
I never thought I would live to see the day that I no longer have HIV.”
In the second groundbreaking case presented at the conference, a 59-year-old woman from Barcelona was found to be in viral remission after a successful series of immune-boosting treatments she underwent in 2006. The patient was randomly selected to receive four therapies over 11 months with the intent of “priming” her immune system to fight off HIV.
While her cells still contain the virus, her immune system has now fully suppressed her viral load without medication for more than 15 years. Though she is in full remission, she is not considered cured because the virus is still present in her body.
The first three months of this year has also been a major year for advancements in HIV science;
- In January, barely a month after the FDA approved injectable PrEP for the first time, Moderna began human trials for its HIV vaccine
- In February, the third known cured patient was announced in New York
- In March, three more potential vaccines entered clinical trials
Curing HIV/AIDS and its variants will demand solutions to global health inequities, not medicine alone, but these clinical breakthroughs are the long-awaited next.
Apropos of things I’ve heard at @AIDS_conference:— Juan Michael Porter II (@juanmichaelii) July 30, 2022
I am not an “HIV infected” person.
I am a person who is living with HIV.
Stop calling me by my infection.
If you call me at all, please call me a person first.
Thank you @marganina @drlaurajwaters for teaching me about stigma. pic.twitter.com/z3F9Q8qmee