On behalf of IFARA, Fred Schaich spoke with Fergus Cairns about the HIV cure research presented at this year's International AIDS Conference. There are three basic approaches to an HIV cure, Cairns explained:

  1. Physically removing all HIV-infected cells from the body.
  2. Boosting the immune system of a person living with HIV.
  3. Damping down that immune system.

The first approach involves a bone marrow transplant, which is a very risky procedure. A small study in Europe is collecting data on patients who are having a transplant performed for other reasons but are also living with HIV. The second strategy -- "kick and kill" -- uses cancer-fighting drugs to stimulate a person's latent reservoir of HIV cells in order to eliminate those cells. This approach could also be used with a therapeutic vaccine. For the third strategy antiretroviral treatment (ART) is started very soon after infection, suppressing a person's viral load to very low levels and preventing the virus from becoming seeded. An ongoing study among young women in South Africa is evaluating this approach by testing participants twice weekly for HIV and starting them on treatment immediately upon a positive HIV test.

However, there are ethical concerns about discontinuing ART for research volunteers who are on stable treatment that has successfully lowered their viral loads to undetectable levels. In addition, some of the cancer drugs used have harmful side effects. Despite effective ART, a cure is needed because of the stigma surrounding HIV in many places, Cairns concluded.

Watch the video to learn more:

About the panelist:

  • Fergus (Gus) Cairns, aidsmap at NAM Publications

The video above has been posted on TheBodyPRO.com with permission from our partners at the International Foundation for Alternative Research in AIDS (IFARA). Visit IFARA's website or YouTube channel to watch more video interviews from the conference, as well as earlier meetings.