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A cure for HIV infection is one of the ultimate long-term goals of research today. The science is expanding, raising hopes and challenges.

The term “cure” refers to a strategy or strategies that would eliminate HIV from a person’s body, or permanently control the virus and render it unable to cause disease. A range of types of cures are being discussed today. A “sterilizing” cure would completely eliminate the virus. A “functional” cure would suppress HIV viral load, keeping it below the level of detection without the use of ART. The virus would not be eliminated from the body but would be effectively controlled and prevented from causing any illness. The term “remission” is also used and it means the virus is undetectable using the most sensitive tests but could return because small numbers of copies remain. It’s important to know that researchers are still figuring out exactly how to define these types of HIV cures. Although some possible cases of functional cures have been reported, it takes time to be certain that HIV can no longer cause disease, because it is known that even very low levels of virus can increase the risk of certain illnesses and ultimately lead to AIDS.

The cure strategies currently under investigation are, in many cases, potentially toxic and carry risks for people undergoing them. Figuring out how to communicate the risks and benefits of cure strategies to potential trial participants will be an important part of any cure clinical trial. In order to test whether a person has been cured, they need to stop effective antiretroviral treatment so that viral rebound, if any, can be measured. There are no standardized guidelines for how to time such “treatment interruptions” so that they minimize risks for cure trial participants. Finally, cure strategies may look different for men, women and children—biological differences between sexes and differences in adult versus pediatric immune systems mean that it is unlikely there will be a “one size fits all” cure approach. AVAC is working with partners to track, translate and accelerate cure research.

What We're Reading

University of Chapel Hill will be partnering with GlaxoSmithKline to create a new center for HIV cure research. HIV cure research is still in the discovery phase, but this public private partnership is a step toward advancing the field.

May 10, 2015

A comprehensive article that balances the scientific reasons for hope with the ongoing challenges that face the HIV cure research field.

May 1, 2015
The Scientist

In this webinar, Dr. Sarah Schlesinger of Rockefeller University provided an overview of "passive immunization"—a scientific term for an expanding area of research highly relevant to treatment, prevention and cure work. She also spoke of her research into broadly neutralizing antibodies, describing the work she and her colleagues have recently published. This webinar was just one in our year-long series, HIV Prevention on the Line.

April 21, 2015

AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses has published a special issue focused on HIV cure research. Guest editor David Margolis, MD, a leading scientist in HIV cure research and principal investigator of one of the Martin Delaney Collaboratories, has compiled articles ranging in topics from drug development to ethics to vaccines. All articles are available for free download.

January 13, 2015
AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses

Jerome Groopman reports on the latest efforts by the US National Institues of Health sponsored Martin Delaney Collaboratory in their quest to "cure" AIDS in The New Yorker.

December 22, 2014
The New Yorker

Veteran AIDS reporter Jon Cohen covers the latest developments—and disappointments—in AIDS cure research for Science magazine.

August 1, 2014
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