Q and A

Question

What is the timeline for HIV cure research?

My question is about cure research.

I have been trying myself to understand as much as possible about the prospects of cure since my diagnosis earlier this year. Researchers use upbeat language, but when asked about time frames there is much more reluctance (see the “Countdown to a Cure” amfAR funding pitch).

So, my question is what is the current status of cure research? Are potential cure combination therapies being trialled now (or how far away are we from this)? In conferences and workshops, what sort of timeframes are being discussed for either a functional or sterilising cure?

Some big name researchers have said the next 5-10 years (… about 5 years ago), whilst others have said decades, if ever.

It would be good to understand better whether the science really is breaking through.

Answer

Hi

Thanks for you question – one that we all really do want to know.

I can tell you that many research groups are now actively working on strategies for an HIV cure. Some of these researchers are more optimistic than others. Similarly, some experts are also more optimistic than others. So who you ask will depend on the answer that you get.

Nearly everyone thinks that a combination therapy approach will be needed – rather than just one breakthrough. For example, one strategy to activate the HIV reservoir in resting cells and another to genrate an immune response that will let people stop ART.

And the last few years has produced interesting advances. One is that a new HIV vaccine studies is already in large studies (https://www.imbokodo.org.za). This might be one of the essential things needed for a cure. Another is that immune-based treatment with broadly neutralising HIV antibodies (bNAbs) have reported that a few people have stopped ART and kept an undetectable viral load after stopping ART for up to a year (http://i-base.info/htb/36040).

Science will achieve a cure. A realistic 5-10 years is reasonable – but this is all just guesswork – expert or otherwise :)

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