Researchers reveal new case of HIV in remission at AIDS 2020 conference

Researchers speaking at the 23rd International AIDS Conference have announced that a man is reported to have no trace of HIV in his body after using antiretroviral medication.

The unidentified 36-year-old presents the first reported case of HIV no longer being present in the body, without the use of a bone marrow or stem cell transplant.

The few previous cases of HIV being ‘removed’ from the body have included cancer patients, whose doctors had sought out HIV-resistant donors to combat both cancer and HIV – a risky, and costly, procedure.

Researchers and HIV experts have welcomed the news, but are urging caution, highlighting that this result was an anomaly of the medication-based study, with others still presenting signs of the virus.

“The fact that it’s a single case suggests that this may not be real,” University of California’s Dr Steven Dooks told aidsmap.

“We know that some people can achieve what appears to be remission with antiretroviral drugs alone. This may simple be a person who got lucky with antiretrovirals.”

In 2007, scientists reported on the case of  ‘The Berlin Patient’, he is now know to be 52 year old Timothy Ray Brown who lives in Palm Springs, California. While undergoing cancer treatment doctors discovered he was no longer living with HIV.

However, attempts to replicate the treatment in other cancer patients who carried the virus have not been successful. Often HIV would return to their systems after 9 months, or they would succumb to the cancer they were being treated for.

In 2019, a case referred to as ‘The London Patient’ received treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and received a bone marrow transplant with a specific CCR5 mutation. A year after he stopped taking HIV medication the virus has not returned to his system.

It’s almost 40 years since the first cases of HIV were discovered. Today around 30,000 Australians are living with the virus. With antiretroviral treatments and proper care HIV is, today, a lifelong condition that can be managed – but not cured.

Earlier this year, Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, Dr. Jennifer Power, released the findings of a study that explores what people living with HIV think about a cure.

The study, published in PLOS ONE, found that all participants interpreted a cure as being ‘HIV-free,’ or the complete elimination of HIV from the body. For people living with HIV sustained viral suppression or remission was not considered to be a cure for HIV. Rather, a cure was something that offered certainty that HIV would not return, that viral load would not rebound, and there was no chance of transmission.

OIP Staff


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