Can HIV be eradicated?

The central challenge to viral eradication is that, once HIV genetic material (proviral DNA) is incorporated into an infected cell, it persists throughout the remainder of the cell's lifetime. Current antiretroviral drugs neither kill these latently infected cells nor eliminate the viral genetic material within them. As long as HIV persists in latently infected cells, it can resume actively replicating as soon as suppressive ART is discontinued.

In the mid-1990s, some experts proposed that several years of antiretroviral therapy should be enough to eradicate HIV entirely, since latently infected cells would all die off within that time. However, it was soon shown that latent HIV infection could persist for years or even decades in certain types of long-lived cells, such as macrophages and resting CD4 cells. The challenges of eliminating HIV from all such ‘reservoirs’ has led many to doubt that such a goal is even theoretically possible.

Recently, however, interest in viral eradication has been renewed, sparked in large part by an apparent "cure" in an HIV-positive man who received a bone marrow transplant while receiving ART (See Bone marrow transplantation, below). Research in the area actively continues.