Tag Archives: HIV Cure

About those “Cure for HIV” articles

hiv-cured

Recently in the news, papers, news organisations and other world media are reports of ‘groundbreaking trials’ testing a possible cure for HIV.  Everyone’s talking about it, scientists, people of faith, doctors, the public, HIV experts, me, you!

It’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement of a cure, after all, it’s what we’re hoping for, it’s our goal.  The reason we exist is to challenge and fight HIV.  I honestly smile everytime I see a HIV Cure article yet I’d never expect to be writing the phrase ‘The Cure for HIV has Finally Arrived” because alas, it hasn’t.

Make no mistake, we’d made significant advances – there’s been reports of babies being cured of HIV, we’ve used Caner Drugs to eradicate HIV, we’ve cut HIV out of DNA and we’re even experimenting with our  own genome now! And we did it again with the CRISPR study!

Many methods are being developed and tested to eradicate the virus, scientists from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco and Yale University have made a breakthrough in the fight to eradicate HIV, by figuring out how to train immune cells to locate and destroy mutated forms of the virus.

Françoise Barré-Sinoussi is the Nobel laureate who co-discovered the HIV virus she said back in 2012 the a cure for HIV is in sight.  HIV is an aggressive virus, mutating, copying and hiding within us, in some studies, it can take just 2 weeks overcome our best attempts to edit it out of

glow-cat-007

Glowing cats to cure HIV – We’re not making this up, I promise!

our cells.  Nevertheless, we continue to find innovate ways to experiment and combat the virus (Green Glowing Cats Anyone)?

Why are we linking to all these Cure Articles? – Well the message is simple.  There is no cure for HIV so it’s premature for the media to suggest this, what is missing is the real message.  While there is a real hope for people living with HIV today, a cure is a long way off.   Always temper a ‘cure article’ with some common sense, they may simply be functional lab cures, not for the human race.

It’s not all doom and gloom, recently scientists may have discovered a way to spur the human body to create antibodies capable of blocking the HIV virus.  It’s early work, but we’re trying to rewrite some rules of vaccine development to overcome the extraordinary challenges of HIV.

However, we need to slow down, and get some perspective.  To quote a famous professor of HIV pharmacology: “We need more data.” We need to take stock, get the facts right, and allow for scrutiny of the case by the scientific community.

Other than the potential of Dr Persaud’s research to stimulate further investigations, then, what is the best thing that can come of all this media frenzy?

So what then is the best thing that can come out of all the media frenzy in reporting a cure for HIV?

The great hope is that this moment represents the greatest mass HIV awareness campaign since the Don’t Die of Ignorance ‘tombstone’ campaign of the 1980s. Rarely does HIV make such headlines, and we have a real chance to educate people whilst their interest is piqued.

We must tell people that the story of HIV is very different now, and we must take this opportunity to communicate new messages through the media whose attention we currently have – messages which can correct people’s out-dated misconceptions.

  • Let’s talk about testing, and the importance of early diagnosis.
  • Let’s talk about effective drugs, which when prescribed early enough can help a patient live a long and full life.
  • Let’s talk about condoms and prevention.
  • Let’s Tell people about PEP and PReP and let’s ensure our NHS will fund PrEP.
  • Let’s tackle stigma!

Today there is no reason for anyone to be born with, or acquire HIV but people are still being diagnosed.  Leicester has a 13.8%  higher late diagnosis rate than the rest of the country.  Sadly, 590,000 babies every year are still born HIV-positive in the developing world: an unnecessary tragedy.

We can do something about that right now, with the tools we have – If we increase testing and make it more regular and consistent. In the UK, 95% of women take the HIV tests during pregnancy. And with effective treatment the chance of the baby being born positive is less than 0.5%. We should be aiming for the same success all over the world

Above and beyond a media storm about a supposed ‘cure’, there are good news stories we can make happen today.

Is the ‘cure’ story exciting? Yes. Is it scientifically plausible? Yes. Will it stimulate more research? Almost certainly. But it is extremely premature to hail it as a cure that will translate into routine clinical care any time soon. We need much more data.

So if you or your child are HIV-positive, then please… don’t stop taking your tablets. And if you have had unprotected sex, take the test. Condoms, education, testing, and access to treatment are our real weapons against HIV, and we need to learn to use these correctly if we want to make a real impact today.

STOP BEING AFRAID OF HAVING A HIV TEST!

For some people the idea of being tested for HIV is as simple as making a note in a calendar, an entry which sits comfortably beneath a dentist appointment and above a mother’s birthday. For others, the idea of making that appointment, or taking that long walk to the clinic, is one of the most nerve-wracking experiences they can imagine. However, in an age where the numbers of people diagnosed with HIV are increasing, has our natural fear of the unknown become a luxury we simply can’t afford?

Many years ago it was a scary disease. We called it AIDS and it became a name associated with sin and death. The massive number of infections, particularly in the gay community, were staggering, and as the death toll slowly crept up, nations across the world panicked. It’s impossible for any society to come through such a dark time and emerge unscathed, and so the fear of a silent killer left a scar on our cultural memory which has never really healed, and the mere mention of HIV and AIDS still has a way of stopping conversations.

Thankfully, things have changed since then and treatment for HIV and AIDS is better now than it has ever been. People who have the condition are now finding that their lives have not changed completely, and they are still able to live as long and do all the same things they could before. It’s true that they now have a few additional concerns to think about but with the help of medication, HIV is now manageable.

The truth is that it’s very easy to get ‘caught short’ in life and sometimes that leads us to take risks when we know we shouldn’t. The true test is when we make these mistakes, we have to make sure that we take the time to know our own status, since it doesn’t just affect us, but also the people we care about. HIV is no longer the death sentence it used to be and people are able to live normal, healthy and happy lives like they did before. However, this is thanks to the amazing progress we have made in treating the condition and we can only begin to do that when we make the decision to get tested and keep on top of our health. It’s a scary prospect to some and no one takes that for granted, but by taking the chance to be tested, you could be buying yourself years of life

what are you waiting for?

Get yourself tested.  Go to your doctor, go to the GU clinic, buy a home testing kit online or apply for a free home sampling kit. – Have questions or want someone to talk you though the process? We offer offer a completely free and confidential rapid HIV test (results within 60 seconds from a simple finger prick test)!  We use the Insti HIV test produced by BioLytical laboratories.

You’re reading this because your either clued up to sexual health and HIV advocacy or someone has shared this article with you.  If you’re the former, you probably don’t need this message, so share it to people who havn’t got round to having their HIV test yet.

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Scientists testing HIV cure report ‘remarkable’ progress after patient breakthrough

UK scientists and clinicians working on a groundbreaking trial to test a possible cure for HIV infection say they have made remarkable progress after a test patient showed no sign of the virus following treatment.

Story via The Guardian

The research, being carried out by five of Britain’s top universities with NHS support, is combining standard antiretroviral drugs with a drug that reactivates dormant HIV and a vaccine that induces the immune system to destroy the infected cells.

Antiretoviral drugs alone are highly effective at stopping the virus from reproducing but do not eradicate the disease, so must be taken for life.

Fifty patients are taking part in the trial. Early tests on the first person to complete the treatment show no signs of the virus in his blood, the Sunday Times reported.

There is still a long way to go before the treatment can be deemed a success as the virus has previously re-emerged in people thought to have been “cured” and the use of antiretroviral drugs means the researchers cannot be sure the HIV has gone. Nevertheless, there is optimism over the findings.

Mark Samuels, the managing director of the National Institute for Health Research Office for Clinical Research Infra­structure, told the Sunday Times: “This is one of the first serious attempts at a full cure for HIV. We are exploring the real possibility of curing HIV. This is a huge challenge and it’s still early days but the progress has been remarkable.”

HIV is able to hide from the immune system in dormant cells where highly sophisticated modern testing cannot find it, and therefore resist therapy. The treatment endeavours to trick the virus into emerging from its hiding places and then trigger the body’s immune system to recognise it and attack it, an approach that has been called “kick and kill”.

There are approximately 37 million people living with HIV worldwide and about 35 million people have died from the virus.

The difficulty of declaring a patient clear of HIV was illustrated by the case of a girl in Mississippi who was put on a strong course of antiretroviral drugs within 30 hours of her birth in 2010 after her mother was found to be HIV positive. Treatment continued until the hospital lost contact with the mother 18 months later. When mother and child reappeared five months later the baby had no detectable virus in her blood, raising hopes that early intervention had cured her, but two years later the virus re-emerged.

The only person believed to have been cured was Timothy Ray Brown, an American treated in Germany. He needed a bone marrow transplant to replace his own cancerous cells with stem cells that would remake his immune system; his doctor found him a donor who was naturally resistant to HIV infection due to a genetic mutation that blocks HIV from entering the cells in the human body.

However, stem cell transplants are difficult and potentially dangerous for the recipient and only undertaken where they can save a life.

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Something to #Celebrate: Good news in #HIV #Vaccine Research!

Scientists may have discovered a way to spur the human body to create antibodies capable of blocking the HIV virus. Researchers at institutions around the United States said in five studies published Thursday in the journals Cell, Immunity and Science that they had made an important early step toward developing a vaccine for the disease.

“It’s early work, but we’re trying to rewrite some rules of vaccine development to overcome the extraordinary challenges of HIV,” William Schief, director of vaccine design for the Neutralizing Antibody Center at the Scripps Research Institute’s International AIDs Vaccine Initiative, said. “In a collaborative effort we have reached critical milestones, including the first proof ever that immunization with designer proteins can produce broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV. The new results strongly support further developing these approaches toward testing in clinical studies.”

There are still some major challenges before clinical studies on humans can begin. To put it simply, HIV is difficult to combat because it attacks the very immune cells sent out to fight it. When the body is successful in fighting it (usually with the help of drugs) the virus is really good at hiding dormant until the next opportunity to stage a comeback. Traditional vaccines haven’t worked to fight HIV but this new research shows that so-called “broadly neutralizing antibodies” are capable of controlling or preventing infection from a range of HIV strains and researchers think these special antibodies are the key to formulating a vaccine.

But for it to be effective the vaccine would have to be much better than nature. Only about 10 to 20 percent of people infected with HIV develop the antibodies on their own and it can take years for them to develop. This new vaccine would have to coax the human immune system to act differently. The researchers were able to spur this kind of reaction in mice whose immune systems mimicked components of the human immune system.

Vaccines aren’t the only way scientists hope to address the HIV problem around the world. Other approaches — including one that resulted in the only known case of HIV being cured, stem cell transplants — are being looked at.

Want more?

Here’s another link on the same story: New vaccination strategies coach immune system to make HIV-neutralizing antibodies

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Imagine this… No new HIV diagnoses (& it’s happening right now in Denmark)!

Eradicating HIV is within our grasp, using the ‘treatment as prevention’ approach, experts have suggested.  The World Health Organization and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV said they plan to use the ‘treatment as prevention’ technique to eliminate the global pandemic.

Article via Daily Mail (Video’s sourced via YouTube).

The point will have been achieved, WHO experts say, when only one person in every 1,000 becomes infected each year.  Now, a nearly two-decade analysis by researchers from UCLA and Denmark, yields the first proof that the approach could be effective.   Reviewing Danish medical records, they found that the treatment-as-prevention strategy has brought Denmark’s HIV epidemic to the brink of elimination.

The study found that in 2013, the country had only 1.4 new HIV infections per 1,000 men who have sex with men, Denmark’s major risk group.

Professor Sally Blower, the study’s senior author and director of the Center for Biomedical Modeling at UCLA, said: ‘The Danes have done what nobody else in the world has been able to do.  They have almost eliminated their HIV epidemic, and they have achieved this simply by providing treatment.’

The paper notes, however, that the treatment programs in Denmark are exceptional.  ‘Treatment makes people less infectious,’ said Justin Okano, the study’s lead author and a statistician in Blower’s research group.

‘In Denmark, 98 per cent of patients take all of their HIV medications, which is why treatment as prevention has worked there.   ‘Unfortunately, adherence levels are nowhere near as high in other countries.’

The findings, which appear online in the Lancet Infectious Diseases, are based on a sophisticated statistical analysis of data from the ongoing Danish HIV Cohort Study, which began in 1995.

That project, which tracks all Danish men who have sex with men, and who have been diagnosed with HIV, was established and is run by Jan Gerstoft and Niels Obel, clinicians and epidemiologists in Denmark who also are co-authors of the new study.

For the current study, the researchers used an approach called CD4-staged Bayesian back-calculation to determine the number of Danish men who have sex with men, and who had become infected with HIV each year between 1995 and 2013.

They found that the number of infections has been decreasing since 1996, when effective HIV treatments were introduced in Denmark.   They then measured the correlation between the decrease in the number of HIV infections each year and the increase in the number of people who began treatment, and they found that the two were highly correlated.

‘What we found was very exciting,’ said Dr Laurence Palk, a co-author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow in Professor Blower’s lab.  Our results show treatment as prevention has been slowly but steadily working to end the Danish epidemic.’

The team calculated that by 2013, when the epidemic was close to elimination, there were only approximately 600 men in Denmark who have sex with men, and who were infected with HIV but had not been diagnosed.

‘Now that the number is so low, it would be fairly easy to do a social media campaign and get these men to be tested,’ ‘If they accepted treatment, it would essentially end this epidemic.’ – Dr Palk said.

Professor Blower, who also is a professor in residence at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, said: ‘Over 15 years ago, we made predictions based on mathematical models that treatment as prevention could work and be an effective elimination tool.  ‘It’s wonderful to see that this has actually happened.’

The researchers chalk up Denmark’s success to many factors, including the country’s universal health care system and the availability of free treatment for all people who have been infected with HIV.

However, the largest number of people with HIV – 25 million – live in sub-Saharan Africa, where health care systems are overextended and there are far fewer resources.

Professor Blower said that for the treatment-as-prevention approach to eliminate HIV epidemics throughout the world, all countries would need to emulate Denmark’s treatment programs.

‘Even in resource-rich countries, this would take a huge amount of money and effort,’ she said.  ‘The goal of elimination through treatment is aspirational, but Denmark has shown that – at least in resource-rich countries – it’s achievable.’

Want more? – see these links.

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Science won’t stop until it beats AIDS, says HIV pioneer

Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, French virologist and director of the Regulation of Retroviral Infections Division (Unite de Regulation des Infections Retrovirales) at the Institut Pasteur, poses during an interview with Reuters, in Paris, France, October 1, 2015. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, French virologist and director of the Regulation of Retroviral Infections Division (Unite de Regulation des Infections Retrovirales) at the Institut Pasteur, poses during an interview with Reuters, in Paris, France, October 1, 2015. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Oct 9 More than 30 years after she identified one of the most pernicious viruses to infect humankind, Francoise Barre Sinoussi, who shared a Nobel prize for discovering HIV, is hanging up her lab coat and retiring.

Story via Reuters
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She’s disappointed not to have been able to claim ultimate victory in the battle against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes the killer disease AIDS, but also proud that in three decades, the virus has been beaten into check.

While a cure for AIDS may or may not be found in her lifetime, the 68-year-old says, achieving “remission” – where infected patients control HIV in their bodies and, crucially, can come off treatment for years – is definitely within reach.

“I am personally convinced that remission…is achievable. When? I don’t know. But it is feasible,” she told Reuters at her laboratory at Paris’s Pasteur Institute, where she and her mentor Luc Montagnier discovered HIV in 1983.

“We have ‘proof of concept’. We have…the famous Visconti patients, treated very early on. Now it is more than 10 years since they stopped their treatment and they are still doing very well, most of them.”

Sinoussi is referring to a study group of 14 French patients known as the Visconti cohort, who started on antiretroviral treatment within 10 weeks of being infected and stayed on it for an average of three years. A decade after stopping the drugs, the majority have levels of HIV so low they are undetectable.

These and other isolated cases of remission, or so-called “functional cure”, give hope to the 37 million people worldwide who, due to scientific progress, should now be able to live with, not have their lives cut short by, HIV.

In developed countries at least – and in many poorer ones too – an HIV positive diagnosis is no longer an immediate death sentence, since patients can enjoy long, productive lives in decent health by taking antiretroviral drugs to control the virus.

It’s a long way from the early 1980s, when Sinoussi remembers sick, dying HIV-positive patients coming to the doors of the Pasteur and pleading with scientists there for answers.

“They asked us: ‘What we are going to do to cure us’,” she says. At that time, she says, she knew relatively little about HIV, but what she was sure of was that these patients would never live long enough to see a treatment developed, let alone a cure. “It was very, very hard.”

Yet this interaction with real patients, and with their doctors and later their advocates, gave Sinoussi an important insight into what was needed to make her life in science one with meaning and impact — collaboration.

Working across barriers – be they scientific disciplines, cultural, religious and political divides, international borders or gender distinctions, has been and remains Sinoussi’s driving force.

In her earliest days, feeling disengaged while working on her PhD and itching for action in a real-life laboratory, she hustled her way in to working at the male-dominated Pasteur Institute for free with a virologist researching links between cancers and retroviruses in mice.

While viruses are her thing, she has throughout her career worked with, cajoled and learned from immunologists, cancer specialists, experts in diseases of aging, pharmaceutical companies, AIDS patients, campaigners, and even the pope.

“When you work in HIV, it’s not only working in HIV, it’s working far, far beyond,” she said.

Freshly armed with her Nobel award and fired up about a lack of support for proven methods of preventing HIV’s spread, Sinoussi wrote an open letter to then-Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 criticising him for saying that condoms can promote the spread of AIDS.

In what was widely seen as a modification of his stance in response to such criticism, Benedict said in a book a year later that use of condoms could sometimes be justified in certain limited cases as a way to fight AIDS.

Sinoussi says: “HIV has shown the way to go in the field of science. You can’t be isolated in your laboratory. You need to work with others.”

And this, she adds, is the “all together” spirit with which she advises her successors to continue after she’s gone.

Many will be sad to see her leave, but she has faith that her chosen field will deliver for the people who need it.

“Of course, I would love to have stopped and to see we had a vaccine against HIV and another treatment that could induce remission – but that’s life. I encourage the new generation of scientists today to continue our work.

“Science never stops,” she says. “Just because a scientist stops, the science should not stop.”

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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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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: