Is there any cure for HIV?
Over the past two years ‘’cure for HIV’’ has flashed over all the newspapers across the world. However, a functional cure for HIV/AIDS is yet to be discovered. This implies that there exists no scientifically proven medications or procedures to completely eliminate the virus from the human body. Advancement in therapies and treatments has given a hope to improve the quality of life of an HIV patient and finding the functional cure for HIV has been the new area of research. A man named Timothy Brown also called as ‘Berlin patient’ who had a bone marrow transplantation for leukemia also happened to cure his HIV, although the influence of bone marrow transplantation on curing HIV is unknown. HIV which is known to hide in reservoirs, finding a functional cure to which is difficult. However, the key to cure HIV would be destroying the reservoirs. A tremendous amount of research is being undertaken for treating HIV with an HIV vaccine. However, a disadvantage of an HIV vaccine being the partial protection and usage of the vaccine in combinations with other treatments. To prevent body developing into AIDS and to relieve the symptoms of AIDS, taking the combination of medications will strengthen the immune system. But by taking these medications, one is exposed to some serious adverse effects. People with AIDS or HIV are however living for many years because of the combination of these medications, improved therapies combined with new treatments and researches.
Why Is HIV hard to cure?
CD4 being a key player in the immune response is the type of white blood cell which is infected by HIV. As with the saying “HIV/AIDS has no boundaries”, HIV stands unique as it infects the very cells that rub out viral infection. HIV when triggered by infection, gets replicated in CD4 cells. Another property of HIV cell is some of it gets inactivated before the virus replicates. The virus remains in the dormant stage by going into a resting mode until it gets activated. Current treatments do not treat HIV because the virus hidden in the resting cells are not affected by HIV drugs. The resting cells get activated when the treatment stops. Hence, HIV inside the resting cells become replicated and spreads quickly.
How is HIV prevented?
- Know your partner’s HIV status
- Minimize unsafe sex
- Have a protected intercourse by using condoms
- Limit the number of sexual partners
- Get proper testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases or STDs
- Do not inject drugs or tr-use needles
- Know about your increased risk for developing HIV which is called as post-exposure prophylaxis
- Get tested for HIV
What are the current treatment options for HIV?
Infection with HIV is currently treated with the use medicines called as antiretroviral therapy. A combination of HIV medicines such as HIV regimen is given to patients who are on antiretroviral therapy. Though antiretroviral therapy does not cure HIV, it helps people with HIV to live for a long time. The risk of HIV transmission is also reduced by antiretroviral therapy. Taking HIV medicines helps in preventing the multiplication of HIV and hence reduces the amount of HIV in the body. The immune system gets a chance to recover if there is reduced viral load in the body which also contributes to reducing the risk of HIV transmission. With the administration of HIV medications, certain HIV-related infections and diseases can be fought by the immune system strongly even if some HIV remains in the body. Antiretroviral therapy should be started for patients as soon as they are suspected with HIV. Antiretroviral therapy is expected to start right way in people with the following condition;
- Certain HIV-related co-infections
- Early HIV infections
- Certain HIV-related illnesses
There are 6 drug classes which are grouped under HIV regimen. Side effects of HIV medicine, the drug interactions between the medications are certain factors which are to be considered before choosing a proper regimen for a particular patient. The drug classes are as follows;
- Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs)
- Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs)
- Protease inhibitors (PIs)
- Fusion inhibitors
- Integrase strand transfer inhibitors (INSTIs)
- CCR5 antagonists (CCR5s)
More than 25 HIV medicines are approved to be considered for treating HIV of which some of the medications are used in combinations. The important factors to be considered to choose an HIV regime include;
- Person having other diseases apart from having HIV
- Side effects of HIV medications
- Drug interactions between HIV medicines and HIV medicine with other medicines which a person taking
- Results from drug resistance testing
- Cost of the HIV medicines
- The convenience of the regime to the person with HIV. Checking whether the person is comfortable in having two or more medications in a particular regime
- Any difficulty in following an HIV regime
Benefits of treatment with HIV medications include;
- To stay healthy and live longer
- To reduce the risk of transmission of HIV to others
Hence “Prevention is better than cure. Especially when something has no cure”.
– Swathi S