Tag Archives: cure

Prayer is good, prayer and medication is better!

Pastor Elizabeth was told that prayer was all she needed to fight HIV, she stopped taking her medication after faith leaders insisted she cease taking anti-HIV and life saving drugs.  She wrestled with the decision and is now an advocate for taking medication.  She says “If you are sick, and someone tells you not to take medication, they are misleading you.  Pastor Elizabeth realises this and wishes to share that HIV is simply an illness which requires medication.

At the beginning of the HIV epidemic in the early eighties, some faith leaders preached that only ‘sinners’ contracted the virus, advising that the only solution for those living with HIV was to pray hard for forgiveness. While many faith leaders have since realised that HIV is simply a virus that can affect anyone, unfortunately some haven’t. In fact, a few have gone even further, telling those in their congregations who are living with HIV to stop taking their Antiretroviral treatment (ARVs) and instead concentrate on praying because that’s the only way they will experience emotional and physical healing.

Whether praying to be healed from HIV is being preached in select churches, or some church-goers living with HIV are misinterpreting what their faith leaders are telling them, a number of HIV positive people have died as a result of stopping their HIV medication. What remains unclear is how many people are being converted to this way of thinking. Is this a big problem warranting a global intervention, or are we making a mountain out of a molehill? I personally don’t know the definitive answers to these questions, but what I can say is that where prayer and HIV healing are concerned, I have witnessed and have heard of some pretty bizarre behaviour among people living with HIV, particularly within African communities in the UK and in some parts of Africa.

It was reported in October 2011 that blind faith in prayer claimed the lives of three people who were HIV positive.  At least three people in London with HIV died after they stopped taking life saving drugs on the advice of their Evangelical Christian pastors.

The women died after attending churches in London where they were encouraged to stop taking the antiretroviral drugs in the belief that God would heal them, their friends and a leading HIV doctor said.

HIV prevention charity African Health Policy Network (AHPN) says a growing number of London churches have been telling people the power of prayer will “cure” their infections.

“This is happening through a number of churches. We’re hearing about more cases of this,” AHPN chief Francis Kaikumba said.

Whether you believe in religion or not, there is absolutely nothing wrong with prayer to help you with HIV, however there is everything wrong with discontinuing medication in favour of prayer.  Take time to consider the different mechanises to combat HIV.  Prayer may help the soul and medication will help the body.  There are a lot of people of all faiths in within research and development who would hope you look after your body too.

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HIV vaccine that transforms cell DNA brings fresh hope

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A radical new approach to vaccination seems to completely protect monkeys from HIV, US scientists report.

Vaccines normally train the immune system to fight an infection.

Instead, researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in California have altered the DNA of monkeys to give their cells HIV-fighting properties.

The team describe it as “a big deal” and want to start human trials soon. Independent experts say the idea is worth “strong consideration”.

This technique uses gene therapy to introduce a new section of DNA inside healthy muscle cells.

That strip of DNA contains the instructions for manufacturing the tools to neutralise HIV, which are then constantly pumped out into the bloodstream.

Experiments, reported in the journal Nature, showed the monkeys were protected from all types of HIV for at least 34 weeks.

As there was also protection against very high doses, equivalent to the amount of new virus that would be produced in a chronically infected patient, the researchers believe the approach may be useful in people who already have HIV.

Lead researcher Prof Michael Farzan told the BBC: “We are closer than any other approach to universal protection, but we still have hurdles, primarily with safety for giving it to many, many people.

Shifting target

“We’re very proud of it and we think it’s a big deal, but we are biased.”

HIV vaccines have struggled because the virus mutates so rapidly it is a constantly shifting target.

This one targets areas that HIV struggles to change.

“The real strength of this thing is that it is more potent than any antibody,” Prof Farzan said.

However, there are safety questions.

After conventional vaccination, the immune system responds only after it is presented with a threat.

The gene therapy approach turns cells into factories that constantly spew out the artificial HIV-killers, and the long-term implications of that are unknown.

‘Important step’

The team want to begin trials in patients who have HIV but are unable to take conventional drug therapies within the next year.

Prof Nancy Haigwood, of Oregon Health & Science University, commented: “In the absence of a vaccine that can elicit broadly protective immunity and prevent infection, and given the lack of major breakthroughs on the horizon to provide one, the idea of conferring potent, sustained vaccine-like protection against HIV infection through gene therapy is certainly worth strong consideration.”

Dr Anthony Fauci, of the US National Institutes of Health, said: “It would be advantageous to curb HIV infection without daily antiretroviral drugs because of their cost, the potential for negative side-effects from lifelong therapy, and the difficulties some patients have adhering to daily drug regimens and tolerating certain drugs.

“This innovative research marks an important step toward our goal of putting HIV into sustained remission in chronically infected people.”

via BBC

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Bill Gates predicts HIV vaccine by 2030

 Bill and Melinda Gates speak at Davos. Photograph: Ruben Sprich/Reuters

Bill and Melinda Gates speak at Davos. Photograph: Ruben Sprich/Reuters

Bill Gates believes that a vaccine and new intensive drugs to combat HIV should be available by 2030 and end most new cases of the virus that has killed millions in the past three decades.

The Microsoft founder, whose philanthropic foundation spends tens of millions of dollars on medical research, told the World Economic Forum in Davos that the two “miracles” were within reach.

“We’re pretty optimistic in this 15-year period we will get those two new tools,” he said.

A vaccine was seen as being pivotal in preventing infections among susceptible populations, while new kinds of intense drug treatments should do away with the need for life-long treatment, he added.

The billionaire founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000. The couple said in their annual letter about the foundation’s work that, along with progress toward a vaccine or a cure, the number of people getting treatment for HIV in sub-Saharan Africa would finally outstrip the number of new infections.

“When we reach that point in the region with the most dense HIV transmission in the world, cases will start going down everywhere around the globe for the first time since the disease was discovered more than 30 years ago,” they wrote.

Gates was also optimistic about the battle against malaria, where work on a vaccine is more advanced than for HIV.

GlaxoSmithKline filed the world’s first malaria vaccine for approval in July 2014.

“We won’t see the end of Aids,” Gates told the Davos forum last Friday. “But both for malaria and Aids we’re seeing the tools that will let us do 95-100% reduction. Those tools will be invented during this 15-year period.”

Bill and Melinda Gates also predicted in their annual letter that the lives of people in developing countries would improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history.

In the UK there are an estimated 100,000 people living with HIV infection – both diagnosed and undiagnosed – of whom about 40% are gay men.

A drug called Truvada has been found in trials – when used as a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in HIV negative people at risk of getting the virus – to reduce the transmission of HIV, but has not yet been approved or funded by the NHS for this. The drug may also be used in people who have been exposed to HIV, in combination with another drug, such as raltegravir. This is known as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).

There have been growing calls to make Truvada more widely available as a preventative measure in Britain, particularly to gay men.

via Guardian

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Human Genome Tinkering Could Be Our Best Bet to Beat HIV

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The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a crafty little beast, constantly mutating to mask itself from our body’s defenses, but always entering cells through the same molecular door. The design of that cellular door is governed by our DNA, so why not change the lock by modding our genetic code?

In 2006, a minor medical miracle occurred. HIV-positive leukemia patient Timothy Ray Brown—the second Berlin Patient—received a bone marrow transplant that saved his life in more ways than one. The marrow that he received was from a donor with a unique double mutation to a gene on the 3rd chromosome known as CCR5. This gene codes for the surface protein that the HIV virus uses to gain entry into our white blood cells (specifically, CD4+ T-cells); however the double mutation shuts down these sites and provides a natural immunity to HIV. This mutation is exceptionally rare, only occurring in about one percent of Caucasians and nowhere else. It’s been hypothesized that it’s this same natural immunity that allowed a small portion of Europeans to make it through the Black Plague unscathed.

While that was fantastic news for Brown, who nearly a decade later remains off of his retroviral drug regimen and maintains an undetectable level of the virus in his system, it’s not of much use to the rest of us. With both the mutation prevalence and bone marrow compatibility matches in general being so rare, there was no effective means of using transplants as delivery vectors for this beneficial genetic condition. And it’s worth noting that the very process of becoming HIV-free nearly killed Brown. But that’s where Professor Yuet Kan’s team at UCSF comes in.

Kan figured that if integrating this double mutation wouldn’t work on the macro level—that is, replacing a patient’s bone marrow with that of a naturally HIV-immune person’s—maybe it would at the molecular level, thereby allowing researchers to confer the benefits while cutting out the marrow donation. To that end, he and a team of researchers from the University of San Francisco are employing cutting-edge genetic editing techniques to snip out the beneficial length of DNA coding and integrate it with a patient’s own genome.

The technique they’re using is known as CRISPR (Cas9) genome-editing. CRISPRs, (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) are DNA delivery vectors that replace the existing base codes at a specific part of a specific chromosome with new base pair sets. Cas9, on the other hand are the “molecular scissors” that Kan’s team employs to first cut out the offending DNA. It sounds easy, sure—just find the string of DNA you want to replace, then snip it out with Cas9 DNA scissors, and install some new DNA using a CRISPR—however the nuts and bolts of the process are far more technically challenging.

The patient’s own blood cells would be employed as a precursor. Researchers would then have to convert those cells into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells by modulating a number of genetic switches, thereby instigating their regression to more basic stem cells. After that, the offending CCR5 gene would need to be knocked out and replaced with the better, double-mutated version before the now fortified blood cells were transfused back into the patient. Not only is there no chance of the body rejecting the new cells (they are the patient’s own after all), the technique also neatly sidesteps the whole embryonic stem cell issue.

While the technique is still in its early stages of development and no human trial dates have yet been set, it holds huge promise. Not just for the 35 million people annually infected by HIV, but also sufferers of sickle cell anemia and cystic fibrosis—two deadly diseases caused by a single protein deformation—could benefit from similar techniques. By figuring out which genes do what on our iPS cells, we could even theoretically grant everyone on Earth immediate immunity to any number of diseases.

Of course, being able to update and augment our genetic code opens up a whole slew of potential concerns, objections, and abuses. Just look at the ire raised over the use of embryonic stem cells in the early 2000s. People were lost their minds because they thought scientific progress was being built on the backs of fetuses. Researchers had to go and invent an entirely new way of making stem cells (the iPS lines) just to get around that one moralized sticking point, so you can bet there will be plenty of chimera, master race, and Island of Dr. Moreaureferences bandied about should we ever begin seriously discussing the prospect of upgrading our genes. And could certainly slow progress in this specific research.

That’s not to say that the hysteria that accompanies seemingly every news cycle these days is completely off base. Like cars, styrofoam, pressure cookers, and thermonuclear bombs, this technology can be used for evil just as easily as it can be for good. And while we’re not nearly as genetically complex as, say, an ear of corn, wrangling the myriad of interactions between our various genes is still an incredibly complex task and one with severe consequences should something go awry—even if we can avoid creating unwanted mutations through stringent testing and development methodology as we do with today’s pharmaceutical development. So why not turn ourselves into the ultimate GMOs? It certainly beats everyone becoming cyborgs.

Article via Gizmodo

Want more? – Read this..

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Admare Jinga sentenced for ‘HIV cure’ fraud

Jinga, Admare

Admare Jinga, 31, was sentenced at Belfast Magistrates Court on Tuesday

A man who was convicted of an on-line scam selling products that claimed to ‘kill’ the HIV virus has been sentenced to 240 hours community service.

Admare Jinga used his base in Belfast to set up a company that advertised and distributed products overseas, particularly to his native Zimbabwe.

In June, he was found guilty of fraud by false representation.  He had already admitted a second charge of marketing medicines for human use without proper authorisation.

The 31-year-old University of Ulster graduate was sentenced at Belfast Magistrates Court on Tuesday.
Jinga, who now lives in Hamilton, Lanarkshire, Scotland, will carry out his community service over the next 12 months.  During the trial, Belfast Magistrates Court had heard that Jinga established a company called Savec Healthcare Ltd in 2007, when he was living in south Belfast.

Up until 2009 it marketed products as alternative forms of treatment for the HIV infection.  They claimed to be able to kill, prevent or stop Aids, according to the prosecution.

In the witness box Jinga said he became involved with pharmacists, a microbiologist and other Zimbabwean professionals concerned with the impact of HIV in their country.  Jinga claimed that no complaints were ever received from people who used his products.
The case against him was taken by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).  In a statement issued after the sentencing, the MHRA said the case was its first ever prosecution of its kind.

The agency said it took action against Jinga after he was found to be selling a machine and accompanying medicine over the internet that he falsely claimed could cure HIV and Aids.

“There are no known cures for HIV so any claim to this effect is illegal,” the MHRA statement added.

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Are you interested in news and articles about genuine research into developing a cure for HIV? – We have some articles for you to read, take a look at these:

Imagine a world where HIV can’t replicate, then start believing!

HIV capsid

The following article provides fascinating reading on the latest published research on the structure of the HIV virus itself.  Be sure to watch the video and follow up on the references at the end of the article for more information.  Excited? – We are!

There’s no easy answer for HIV; the virus uses our own immune cells to its advantage and mutates readily to shrug off round after round of anti-retrovirals. But thanks to the efforts researchers from the University of Illinois and some heavy-duty number crunching from one of the world’s fastest petaflop supercomputers, we may be able to stop HIV right in its tracks.

The latest line of attack against HIV targets its viral casing (or capsid). Capsids lie between the virus’s spherical outer coat, a .1 micron diameter, lipid-based layer known as the viral envelope, and a bullet-shaped inner coat known as the viral core that contains the strands of HIV RNA. Capsids comprise 2,000 copies of the viral protein, p24, arranged in a lattice structure (a rough insight gleaned only from years of cryo-electron microscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, cryo-EM tomography, and X-ray crystallography work). The capsid is responsible for protecting the RNA load, disabling the host’s immune system, and delivering the RNA into new cells. In other words: It’s the evil mastermind.

The lattice protein structure allows the capsid to open and close like a Hoberman Sphere.

As Dr Peijun Zhang, project lead and associate professor in structural biology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine explained to the BBC:

The capsid is critically important for HIV replication, so knowing its structure in detail could lead us to new drugs that can treat or prevent the infection. The capsid has to remain intact to protect the HIV genome and get it into the human cell, but once inside, it has to come apart to release its content so that the virus can replicate. Developing drugs that cause capsid dysfunction by preventing its assembly or disassembly might stop the virus from reproducing.

But until very recently, the precise structure—how the thousands of copies of p24 actually meshed together—remained a mystery. The capsid’s (relatively) large size, non-symmetric shape, protein structure has stumped researchers’ attempts to effectively model it. Earlier research had revealed that the p24 arranged itself in either a pentagon or hexagon shape as part of the capsid structure, but how many of each and how the pieces fit together remained out of reach because science simply didn’t have the computational prowess to model this incredibly complex subatomic structure in atomic-level detail.

This problem required a petaflop-level supercomputer to solve, a class of machine that has only recently become readily available. The team turned to National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and its resident supercomputer, Blue Waters.

The team fed electron microscopy data collected in lab experiments conducted at the University of Pittsburgh and Vanderbilt University into Blue Waters and let the $108 million, 11.5 petaflop machine do its thing: Crunch massive amounts of information with its 49,000 AMD CPUs. Blue Waters can handle one quadrillion floating point operations every second, so stitching together 1,300 proteins into an oblong molecular soccer ball was no sweat.

The team developed a novel shaping algorithm for the project, dubbed molecular dynamic flexible fitting.

“You basically simulate the physical characteristics and behavior of large biological molecules, but you also incorporate the data into the simulation so that the model actually drives itself toward agreement with the data,”

Said Professor Klaus Schulten of the University of Illinois in a press release.

“This is a big structure, one of the biggest structures ever solved,” Schulten continued. “It was very clear that it would require a huge amount of simulation — the largest simulation ever published — involving 64 million atoms.”

The team revealed the complete capsid structure in a Nature report yesterday:

The mature human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) capsid is best described by a ‘fullerene cone’ model, in which hexamers of the capsid protein are linked to form a hexagonal surface lattice that is closed by incorporating 12 capsid-protein pentamers.

In all, the HIV capsid requires 216 protein hexagons and 12 protein pentagons to operate—arranged exactly as the predictive models said they would be. The new discovery reveals a stunningly versatile protein in p24. The protein itself is identical whether it’s shaped into a pentagon or a hexagon, only the attachment sites between p24 proteins varies between shapes. How that works remains a mystery.

“How can a single type of protein form something as varied as this thing? The protein has to be inherently flexible,” said Schulten.

New questions aside, this breakthrough illustrates precisely how the capsid works and how scientists can best attack that function to disrupt the virus’ ability to replicate. By exploiting the capsid’s structure, researchers theoretically could deliver a molecular padlock that prevents the viral core from opening and the virus from spreading. This discovery could lead to an entirely new suite of treatment alternatives and could finally outpace HIV’s ability to rapidly evolve resistance to current enzyme-based medications.

“The big problem with HIV is that it evolves so quickly that any drug you use you get drug resistance which is why we use a multi-drug cocktail,”

Professor Simon Lovell, a structural biologist at the University of Manchester, said.

“This is another target, another thing we can go after to develop a new class of drugs to work alongside the existing class.”

It’s only a matter of time until HIV goes the way of polio. And it’s thanks in no small part to one beast of a computer.

Read on for more information:

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Early HIV drugs ‘functionally cure about one in 10′

HIV Medicine

Rapid treatment after HIV infection may be enough to “functionally cure” about a 10th of those diagnosed early, say researchers in France.

They have been analysing 14 people who stopped therapy, but have since shown no signs of the virus resurging.  It follows reports of a baby girl being effectively cured after very early treatment in the US.  However, most people infected with HIV do not find out until the virus has fully infiltrated the body.

The group of patients, known as the Visconti cohort, all started treatment within 10 weeks of being infected. The patients were caught early as they turned up in hospital with other conditions and HIV was found in their blood.

They stuck to a course of antiretroviral drugs for three years, on average, but then stopped.  The drugs keep the virus only in check, they cannot eradicate it from its hiding places inside the immune system.  Normally, when the drugs stop, the virus bounces back.

Control

This has not happened in the Visconti patients. Some have been able to control HIV levels for a decade.

Dr Asier Saez-Cirion, from the Institute Pasteur in Paris, said: “Most individuals who follow the same treatment will not control the infection, but there are a few of them who will.”  He said 5-15% of patients may be functionally cured, meaning they no longer needed drugs, by attacking the virus soon after infection.

“They still have HIV, it is not eradication of HIV, it is a kind of remission of the infection.”

Their latest study, in the journal PLoS Pathogens, analysed what happened to the immune system of the patients.  Early treatment may limit the number of unassailable HIV hideouts that are formed. However, the researchers said it was “unclear” why only some patients were functionally cured.

Dr Andrew Freedman, a reader in infectious diseases at Cardiff University School of Medicine, said the findings were “certainly interesting”.

“The presumption is that they’ve started treatment very early and the virus hasn’t spread to so many of the long-term reservoirs and that’s why it works.  Whether they’ll control it forever, or whether it’ll be for a number of years and subsequently they will progress and the virus will reappear, we don’t know.”

However, he cautioned that many patients would be diagnosed much later than in this study.

Deborah Jack, the chief executive of the National AIDS Trust said it was “exciting times” in progress towards an HIV cure, but the key was early treatment.

“This just underlines the importance of people being testing and diagnosed early. Currently half of people living with HIV in the UK are diagnosed late – indicating that they are likely to have been infected for five years.”

Analysis

There have been two stories about HIV ‘cures’ in two weeks now – yet the latest developments offer little to the majority of people living with HIV.

In the Mississippi baby case and in the Visconti cohort the infection was caught very early, within weeks, at a vulnerable stage.

This suggests that by hitting the virus hard when it first infects the body, it might be possible to live for years without needing treatment – a functional cure.

However, these patients were the lucky few who were detected in the days and weeks after infection. Most cases are detected years later. For these patients a cure looks, at best, distant.

The hope is that by investigating how patients treated early, and a group of people who are genetically resistant to HIV, can combat the virus – it will give scientists clues for developing cures for everyone else.

Original Article by James Gallagher
Health and science reporter, BBC News

WHEN WAS YOUR LAST HIV TEST?

If all the recent news about the importance of an early HIV diagnosis is persuading you to think about having a HIV test, you should know we offer offer a completely free and confidential rapid HIV test.  This means you will get your test results within a couple of minutes, and it’s a simple simple finger prick test.  (We don’t collect blood and send it off, we do it there with you)!

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