2nd patient ‘free’ of HIV, Clear indication that AIDS can be treated

Paris: A second person has been cured of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS and affects close to 37 million people worldwide. It was a decade back that the first HIV-infected person was cured of the deadly disease. This is a clear indication that a cure for HIV infection is possible, researchers said. Interestingly, both successes resulted from bone-marrow transplants given to infected patients. But the transplants were intended to treat cancer in the patients, not HIV.

The patient has chosen to remain anonymous, and the scientists referred to him only as the “London patient.” He has shown no sign of the virus for nearly 19 months. In medical jargon, this is described as sustained remission from HIV-1, after ceasing treatment. This will inspire people that cure is not a dream,” Dr Annemarie Wensing, a virologist in the Netherlands, told the New York Times. “It’s reachable.”

“By achieving remission in a second patient using a similar approach, we have shown that the Berlin patient was not an anomaly,” said lead author Ravindra Gupta, a professor at the University of Cambridge, referring to the first known functional cure.

Millions of people infected with HIV around the world keep the disease in check with so-called antiretroviral therapy (ARV), but the treatment does not rid patients of the virus. “At the moment, the only way to treat HIV is with medications that suppress the virus, which people need to take for their entire lives,” said Gupta.

This poses a particular challenge in developing co-untries,” where millions are still not receiving adequate treatment, he added. Close to 37 million people are living with HIV worldwide, but only 59 percent are receiving ARV. Nearly one million people die every year from HIV-related causes.

A new drug-resistant form of HIV is also a growing concern. Gupta and his team emphasised that bone marrow transplant — a dangerous and painful procedure — is not a viable option for HIV treatment. But a second case of remission and likely cure following such a transplant will help scientists narrow the range of treatment strategies.

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