Thanks to advances in medical research, in the last three decades HIV has been transformed from an automatic death sentence into a manageable condition; an amazing and praiseworthy testament to the skills, knowledge and hard work of scientists, pharmaceutical companies, and clinicians. So has the research battle to conquer HIV finally been won?
Romas Geleziunas, senior director of biology at Gilead Sciences, a biopharmaceutical company which leads the field in HIV therapy development, is justifiably proud of the huge success of current HIV treatment options, and the speed at which these were reached. Just a couple of years from the initial recognition of HIV in 1982, antiviral drugs were available, followed by combination therapies in the following decade, and the current treatment involving just one tablet per day.
Can we go any further?
While Geleziunas has every respect for the achievements so far, the scope for further progress is always something to explore and pursue. Although a single pill a day is a mostly non-taxing way of managing HIV, this antiretroviral miracle simply keeps the infection in check, and should the patient fall out of the strict routine of taking it they could develop a resistance which stops the tablet working at all.
So what’s next?
The ideal situation would be to completely eliminate the HIV virus from the human body, a task scientists believe they understand intellectually and are now moving forward with research they hope will lead to the next huge leap forward in, ultimately, eliminating HIV from the human race completely.
Recent studies revealed some progress was being made with a ‘kick or kill’ approach. Basically, this involves adding something to the body to encourage the sleeping virus to emerge, then attacking it once out in the open. Trials with monkeys have shown promising results, and paid medical trials with human beings, operated by specialists such as http://www.trials4us.co.uk/, are the next step. This will add to the body of knowledge being accumulated by outcomes of similar tests, like that which used a cancer drug to treat HIV, with amazing results – https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/hiv-aids-vaccine-therapy-trials-no-daily-drugs-art-irsicaixa-barcelona-beatriz-mothe-a7596521.html.
Ultimately scientists hope they will soon be able to offer those living with HIV the option to exchange a daily pill for a treatment of some kind just once or twice a year.