Can HIV be cured?

There has been, and continues to be, lots of research that is working towards finding a cure for HIV.

So far, only one person has been cured of HIV. Another possible cure was reported in 2019 but it is too early to say if HIV has been completely cleared in his case.

In both cases, the person living with HIV required treatment for cancer, including a stem cell transplant. The stem cell donors both had rare genetic mutations and the transplant may have repopulated their bodies with cells with the genetic mutation, making them resistant to HIV infection.

These are unusual cases and other attempts to replicate them have failed. Stem cell transplants are risky and not suitable for people who don’t have cancer.

Several strategies are being explored to cure HIV. ‘Eradication’ or a ‘sterilising cure’ would remove HIV from the body completely, generally by killing all infected cells. This may be difficult to achieve without a better understanding of how HIV persists in the body undetected and untouched by the immune system.

A ‘functional cure’ would not eradicate all HIV, but would enable the immune system to keep HIV under control, without the need for antiretroviral treatment or other ongoing medication. To achieve a functional cure, it is likely that a combination of approaches will be needed.

In the meantime, current treatment with antiretroviral therapy means that many people with HIV are living long and healthy lives. However, it does not cure HIV.

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