Guides

The HIV cure puzzle

Over the last five years, there has been a dramatic increase in research into finding a cure for HIV.

ART in pictures 6 - cure puzzle

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Similar to the way ART uses drugs that target different parts of the HIV lifecycle, cure research is likely to use multiple treatments to cover four areas:

  1. To activate sleeping cells in the viral reservoir
  2. To answer questions about ongoing HIV replication on ART. For example, are there places in the body that ART
    doesn’t reach?
  3. To see whether immune damage from HIV can be reversed
  4. To generate vaccines or immune-based treatment that would keep viral load under control, but without needing ART

As an advocate, it is always good to be optimistic – and hope is a powerful thing. 

Just as science developed ART, one day there will be a cure.

  • Not only has funding for cure research increased but researchers in many different countries are working together on this shared goal.
  • Although ART is good, a cure would be better!
  • One type of cure is called eradication. This approach aims to clear HIV completely from your body. The reservoir makes this very difficult. A single long-lived resting cell could activate decades after someone might think they are cured.
  • Another type of cure is called a functional cure. This approach attempts to get your immune system to control HIV, without needing ART.
  • In practice, most people living with HIV would welcome either type of cure. But in both cases an HIV cure would be similar to remission after cancer.
  • Any cure for HIV is likely to need a combination approach. Different research will provide different pieces of the puzzle.

Further reading

The International AIDS Society (IAS) publishes the Towards a Cure report in 2012. This is the best overview for a research programme for the range of HIV cure research.
http://www.iasociety.org/Portals/0/Files/Cure/HIV_Cure_Full_recommendations_July_2012.pdf (PDF)

Many other resources are produced by the IAS to track the progress of this research, including an annual update on progress.
http://www.iasociety.org/HIV-Programmes/Programmes/Towards-an-HIV-Cure/Resources
www.iasociety.org/hivcure

Last updated: 27 June 2017.