Advertisement covers IAS 2013

Journeying Toward a Cure for HIV: Now Comes the Hard Part

July 1, 2013

We may be approaching the final scientific obstacles to the discovery of an HIV cure, but the next steps in the journey are likely to be the most challenging, according to Steven Deeks, M.D.

Deeks, a professor of medicine at the University of California-San Francisco, spoke at a press conference prior to his keynote speech during the opening session of the 7th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In his talk, Deeks highlighted the major questions he felt must be answered to ensure success with future HIV treatments and the search for an HIV cure.

Deeks pointed out that the focus in HIV research has shifted from the acute aspects of the disease to the chronic problems faced by HIV-infected individuals on long-term treatment. "Many of these problems that we're dealing with -- persistent inflammation, excess heart disease, overburdened health care systems, as well as the really big problem of not being able to afford long-term therapy -- could all be addressed with a cure," he said.

He compared our current search for a cure to the early search for effective HIV treatments in 1987. Back then, the focus was on eliminating virus in the blood. Now the focus is on eliminating virus hidden in reservoirs within the human body. The latent HIV within reservoirs is considered by many researchers to be the last hurdle toward HIV eradication, and we're now beginning to see some promising results, Deeks noted. "You're going to hear at this meeting, certain types of drugs, if you give it to a person on long-term therapy, you can affect the kind of virus that we need to get rid of to cure people," he said. "We're not going to cure anyone with it, but you're actually now really beginning to show that it's possible."

However, Deeks also cautioned that the journey may be much more difficult this time around than it was when HIV medications were first developed. "Going after the virus in 1987 [was] a lot easier than going after the latent virus. That was a free virus that floated around, had targets to go after," he said. "What we're going after now is hidden in cells, and we're going to have to somehow get in there without causing harm to the patient and that's a challenge."

Warren Tong is the research editor for and

Follow Warren on Twitter: @WarrenAtTheBody.

Copyright © 2013 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

This article was provided by TheBodyPRO. It is a part of the publication The 7th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention.


Add Your Comment:
(Please note: Your name and comment will be public, and may even show up in
Internet search results. Be careful when providing personal information! Before
adding your comment, please read's Comment Policy.)

Your Name:

Your Location:

(ex: San Francisco, CA)

Your Comment:

Characters remaining:

Please note: Knowledge about HIV changes rapidly. Note the date of this summary's publication, and before treating patients or employing any therapies described in these materials, verify all information independently. If you are a patient, please consult a doctor or other medical professional before acting on any of the information presented in this summary. For a complete listing of our most recent conference coverage, click here.


The content on this page is free of advertiser influence and was produced by our editorial team. See our content and advertising policies.