This article will take a few opinions, as well as some cold hard facts, and provide you with an option to consume. Enjoy!
For starters, we should do some housekeeping. Let's get really basic here.
What is HIV?
HIV is an acronym for human immunodeficiency virus. It has long been feared in society and carried a nasty stigma. It was also the precursor to AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
HIV attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells (T cells), which help the immune system fight off infections. Untreated, HIV reduces the number of CD4 cells (T cells) in the body, making the person more likely to get other infections or infection-related cancers.
In short, HIV is a nasty virus which relentlessly drives a human body through the dirt, and eventually causes the body to fail. So to think, where is the cure?
There are estimates as far back as the early 1900s, that a form of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) was transmitted to humans in Africa. (source) From that point, until today (2019) there have been TWO actual cases reported "cured". The science on that is still debatable, and what the word cured actually means, but two is still a low number.
HIV has evaded a practical cure, since the structure of HIV is very complex. HIV evades detection by the immune system by remaining dormant in the infected T-cells, until those T-cells are called into action when needed to fight infection. It's because of this dormant state that HIV can go for literally decades without being noticed.
Because HIV is hard to detect, it's also equally hard to treat. There have been many attempts to use pharmaceutical options to target and remove HIV, but again because of being dormant, it's not easy.
We got closer by suppressing the virus in circulation, but that still didn't impact the "dormant" virus.
“Current therapies suppress the virus in circulation by inhibiting the formation of new viruses, but they don’t touch the reservoir. Once you stop, the virus comes back in 10-14 days,” says Hartmut Ehrlich, CEO of Abivax. “ABX464 is the first drug candidate ever shown to reduce the HIV reservoir.”
Once science narrowed down what was going on, and why it was so hard to remove the virus, new approaches were devised to get rid of the virus. The thought process migrated away from finding the HIV, to pushing it out. This quite literally means the virus would be purposely activated, so it could be targeted, then removed. This started in 2016.
The major problem with HIV is the attack on the immune system, leaving the body susceptible to other infections. In attempts to improve longevity, the idea to improve the immune system by creating "supercharged" immune cells was born.
Immunotherapy is effective at keeping the immune system in check while the body is also under attack from HIV. The concept has driven a lot of research and development, and even got support from Bill Gates!
Where are we today?
There was a report a few days ago that discussed the second patient that has reached "undetectable" after a stem cell transplant. The New York Times picked up on it as well, stating H.I.V. Is Reported Cured in a Second Patient, a Milestone in the Global AIDS Epidemic.
Science, technology, and a unified desire to remove the world of HIV will ultimately succeed. Are we about to round that corner?