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HIV cure breakthrough as virus 'disappears' from British man's body

2016-10-03
A British man may have become the first person ever to have been completely cured of HIV.
Current treatment can reduce the levels of the virus in the blood to the point where it cannot be picked up by a HIV test, and cannot be transmitted from person to person (known as being HIV undetectable). However, even with current treatments, the virus can stay dormant within the body, and will begin to replicate once treatment is stopped, meaning those living with HIV have the remain on treatment their entire lives. However, according to the Sunday Times, a British man has shown "remarkable" progress after scientists trialed a treatment that targets the virus in its dormant state. The therapy involves a vaccination to help the body recognize HIV-infected immune cells, and a drug called Vorinostat, which activates dormant infected cells so they can be identified by the immune system and destroyed. While still too early to confirm if it worked, the treatment led to the viral load in one 44-year-old man becoming completely undetectable. If it stays that way, it will be the first documented case of someone being completely cured of HIV.
"This is one of the first serious attempts at a full cure for HIV," Mark Samuels, managing director of the National Institute for Health Research Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure, told the Sunday Times. "This is a huge challenge and it's still early days but the progress has been remarkable." The unidentified patient is the first of 50 people to complete a trial of the treatment. He said: "It would be great if a cure has happened. My last blood test was a couple of weeks ago and there is no detectable virus."
"I took part in the trial to help others as well as myself. It would be a massive achievement if, after all these years, something is found to cure people of this disease. The fact that I was a part of that would be incredible." Despite the promising start, experts have stressed that by no means is a cure imminent. Professor Sarah Fidler, a consultant physician at Imperial College London, said: "This therapy is specifically designed to clear the body of all HIV viruses, including dormant ones. "It has worked in the laboratory and there is good evidence it will work in humans too, but we must stress we are still a long way from any actual therapy. "We will continue with medical tests for the next five years and at the moment we are not recommending stopping Art but in the future depending on the test results we may explore this." Earlier this year, HIV became front-page news as NHS England and various HIV charities led by the National AIDS Trust became embroiled in a battle over the provision of PrEP, a one-a-day drug that helps prevent the transmission of the virus, with a number of papers using divisive and homophobic rhetoric to defend NHS England, who believed it was not their responsibility to provide the preventative drug to at risk groups. More stories: The world’s hottest maths teacher Pietro Boselli goes totally nude in jaw-dropping new shoot ‘Scream’s Nico Tortorella and internet star Kyle Krieger reveal why their relationship ended