What is HIV?

As of now, there is no permanent HIV cure, but antiretroviral treatment can effectively control HIV.
As of now, there is no permanent HIV cure, but antiretroviral treatment can effectively control HIV.

HIV, or the human immunodeficiency virus, infects the human body, attacks immune cells, and weakens the immune system. If left untreated, it can damage your immune cells and lead to AIDS or acquired immune deficiency syndrome. 

HIV-positive patients are given antiretroviral therapy to control the viral growth. These  medications can help prevent AIDS if they are taken in the early stages of HIV infection. However, HIV still cannot be completely cured. If you get HIV, it remains in your body for life. Medications for AIDS-HIV cure help keep the virus at undetectable levels and help you live a long, healthy life.

What causes AIDS-HIV? 

It can be transmitted through unprotected sex and sharing needles with a person with HIV. It spreads via body fluids like blood, semen, vaginal fluids, or even breast milk. It can also be transmitted from an HIV-positive mother to the baby during pregnancy

How is AIDS-HIV diagnosed?

HIV can be diagnosed through antibody and antigen tests. Antigens are the proteins produced by the virus and antibodies are the proteins produced by your immune cells to fight the virus. They can be detected through blood or saliva tests that check viral load (how much virus you have in your body).

When HIV infection progresses into AIDS, it damages your CD4 immune cells. To diagnose AIDS, doctors check the number of CD4 cells in your body. They also check for opportunistic infections like pneumonia or tuberculosis

What AIDS-HIV treatments are available?

Once you’re diagnosed with HIV, your doctor will immediately start HIV treatment to prevent it from worsening. AIDS-HIV treatment is called antiretroviral therapy. It is a recommended treatment regimen for people with HIV. It involves taking a combination of HIV medications.

This treatment can’t cure HIV. But it helps control the virus and reduces the risk of HIV transmission from one person to another.

Doctors recommend beginning HIV treatment immediately after diagnosis. This is because HIV can progress into AIDS if it is not treated right away.

The following types of HIV medicines are used for treatment: 

  • Combination medicines containing two or more HIV drugs 
  • Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs)
  • Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs)
  • Protease inhibitors
  • Integrase strand-transfer inhibitors (INSTIs)
  • Fusion inhibitors
  • Chemokine receptor antagonist (CCR5)
  • CD4 post-attachment inhibitors
  • CYP3A enzyme inhibitors

How do HIV medicines control the virus?

HIV medicines prevent the virus from growing and making copies of itself. This decreases the amount of HIV or viral load in the body. 

HIV typically attacks CD4 immune cells in your body. If these cells get destroyed, your body can’t fight infections and HIV-related cancers. HIV medicines target the virus and allow the immune system to recover and produce more CD4 cells. 

These medicines can’t remove HIV from your body. But they can slow down viral growth and help restore your immune system to fight off infections and diseases. HIV medicines reduce the viral load in the blood to undetectable levels and reduce the risk of HIV transmission through sex.

Is there a permanent AIDS-HIV cure?

As yet, there is no permanent HIV cure. Antiretroviral treatment can effectively control HIV, prevent AIDS, and help people live a healthy life despite the infection. It can make the viral load undetectable but can’t completely cure HIV. 

Research is being conducted to find a definitive AIDS-HIV cure. There are two types of HIV cures being researched. One is a functional cure, which reduces the levels of HIV in the body. Antiretroviral therapy is a functional cure, but it needs to be taken throughout life.

Another cure is called a sterilizing cure, which can completely remove HIV from the body. A stem cell transplant is one such treatment. To date, only three patients are known to have been completely cured of HIV through a stem cell transplant. They are as follows:

  1. The Berlin patient. A patient from Berlin named Timothy Brown is considered to be the first person to be cured of AIDS-HIV. In 2008  He was HIV-positive and underwent chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant to treat HIV-related leukemia. He received the transplant from a donor with natural genetic resistance to HIV. After the transplant, Timothy Brown was cured of HIV.
  2. The London patient. Adam Castillejo, a patient from London, received the same treatment as Timothy Brown. In 2020, 30 months after the treatment, he was free from HIV.
  3. The American patient. An American female patient with HIV was given a cord blood stem cell transplant for leukemia. In February 2022, she was reported to be completely cured of HIV. On testing, the virus was not detected at all, despite stopping antiretroviral therapy for 14 months.

Stem cell therapy showed promising results in these cases. However, transplants require surgery and can be risky for patients living with HIV.

Ongoing research and potential HIV cures

There is still no universal or permanent cure for HIV. But techniques like gene editing, immune cell modulation, and stem cell transplants are currently being studied to cure HIV. These methods focus on changing and boosting immune cells to fight the virus. Many researchers have also conducted HIV vaccine trials. But more research is required before it can be used to cure HIV. 

In the meantime, doctors recommend patients test regularly for HIV to ensure that they don’t have the virus. If you’re HIV-positive, your doctor will ask you to start antiretroviral treatment immediately. For now, it is the best way to control HIV, prevent AIDS, and live a long and healthy life.

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Medically Reviewed on 3/24/2022
References
SOURCES:

Avert: "Is There a Cure for HIV and AIDS?"

CDC: "About HIV," "What is HIV treatment?"

FDA: "HIV and AIDS: Medicines to Help You."

HIV.gov: "What Are HIV and AIDS?"

HIVinfo.NIH.gov: "FDA-Approved HIV Medicines," "HIV Treatment."

NIH: "Researchers document third known case of HIV remission involving stem cell transplant."