What, a cure for HIV?


What is it?

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) falls in the retrovirus family. It is a virus that duplicates itself in some very sciencey complicated way and essentially infects the cells reducing the body's ability to fight off other diseases or infections (it debilitates the immune system).

HIV is not the same as Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) which is a worse diagnosis. AIDS is actually a disease that is caused by first contracting the HIV virus.



I found this informative timeline of the history and spread of HIV/AIDS. It is 'believed' that the virus started in primates in the late 1800s or early 1900s and spread to humans as early at 1959. The first reported cases of the virus in the United States occurred in New York and California between 1966 and 1969. It took medical professionals and scientists quite a while to understand the severity of the virus and start working on a treatment.


How it spreads

The virus spreads through bodily fluids (mostly, but not exclusively, blood), typically through sexual intercourse or by sharing syringes, in some cases it is spread through blood transfusions - particularly in poorer countries that cannot do proper screenings on donated blood, and it also can be transferred from an infected mother to her child during pregnancy, labor, or through breastfeeding. A common misconception is that it can be spread through saliva, I don't really know why it is not spread through saliva because, after all, saliva is a bodily fluid. But apparently it is also NOT transmitted through mucus, feces, urine, vomit, sweat, or tears unless there is blood present.



Treatment is not a cure - it is a way to keep the virus toned down and allow a person to carry on living a normal life and manage the spread and severity of the virus. It consists of taking high active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) which is usually a combination of many different medications customized to each person based on their individual needs.



Some trials have been conducted to find a vaccine for the virus but so far, none have proven especially conclusive.

One trial was based on the RV 144 which is in the third phase of clinical trials currently.



However!!! I did come across some recent articles about one person, known as "Berlin patient" and potentially two other people who were "cured" of the virus. The "cure" came about under unique circumstances in which these men had the virus and later were diagnosed with cancer, in the process of being treated for the cancer, they were able to also remove the virus from their body's.


According this this article:

"Brown underwent a blood stem cell transplant - what once was a bone marrow transplant - to treat the cancer. His own immune system was destroyed. And his German transplant surgeon found a donor who was among the 1 percent of whites who have a gene mutation that makes them naturally resistant to HIV - their cells lack the specific doorway the virus uses to get inside."

In researching this topic, I also came across the controversial topic of using primates for research purposed and particularly using them for HIV/AIDS research because the virus does not progress to AIDS in primates like it does in humans. Therefore giving them the virus has been deemed unethical. I think this would be a good topic for someone to explore further!


So the cure for HIV/AIDS is not really a vaccine as with most viruses, but a gene?

As the world progresses more and more into the future, I find that genetics has become a large part of the scientific world.

I feel as if we are beginning to find a lot of answers in genes, and this is another prime example of how genetics could possibly cure an incurable disease.

I've also heard that there are more and more kids who are being born resistant to Ebola and HIV because it is so prevalent in their society. This is mostly in lower-income areas, but it is still very astonishing that we are still evolving.

Of course, they become more likely to pick up other diseases.

Hopefully an answer will be found, and it will be found in our genetic code.

You can't create a vaccine in the traditional sense with this virus. Since it attacks and replicates your cells it doesn't take much for it to get a foothold in your body. This is what makes finding a vaccine so difficult. So far our only counter to a virus is to inject people with a vaccine which is dead or dieing pieces of that virus which gives your immune system a chance to aclimate and defeat the threat.

How Vaccines Work

This is a very interesting possibility, though I wonder what will be the next big problem after HIV. If people don't correct their risky behaviors - like having unprotected sex or reusing needles - other diseases are bound to spread. Solving HIV will probably take away a huge incentive for lower-income areas to "straighten up," leaving them vulnerable still to other diseases and whatever new ones come up. Obviously this consequence does not outweigh all the benefits of finding a solution to the HIV/AIDS epidemic though.

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