On Tuesday, 19th July, researchers appraised the progress made towards developing HIV cure. However, said it was impossible to tell when or whether a quick HIV cure would be found.
Over 18,000 delegates from around the world converged on the coastal city of Durban for the 21st International AIDS Conference where the latest advances in research are being presented.
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Last week, scientists unveiled an aggressive strategy to develop an outright cure, but many of those in Durban warned it was still a young field of research. However, the principal author of the strategy Professor Sharon Lewin said that the ability of a patient to stop taking anti-retroviral treatment and remain healthy was the intermediate goal.
“A true cure is an aspirational goal,” Professor Sharon Lewin said. “We don’t know when we will have a cure and if we will have a cure,” said Nobel Medicine laureate Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, who in 1983 helped identify the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS.
“We really believe that we will be able to have sustainable remission. That’s not to say a cure is impossible, it’s just to say to have a real cure is very, very hard,” Francoise Barre-Sinoussi continued.
In 2004, more than two million people died from AIDS. In 2015, there was a decline in the death rate and it totaled around 1.2 million lives, thanks to the availability of anti-retroviral drugs, the standard medication given to HIV patients to reduce symptoms of the virus.
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Unfortunately, Nigeria has been ranked the second highest country with HIV-infected persons in Africa. Meanwhile, Scientists now have a clearer understanding of how HIV remains barricaded in tissues, such as the lymph nodes and the gut, after being beaten back by anti-retroviral therapy.
According to Professor Sharon Lewin, there is still need for a lot more basic research about where and why the virus persists and how to harness immune response to eliminate it.
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Although a headway has been made with the discovery that starting therapy early limits the ability of the virus to establish a stronghold. Meanwhile, only a few people living HIV receive therapy and more needs to be done to protect more lives in anticipation of HIV Cure.