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Possible cure for HIV

AIDS 2014 the annual conference on AIDS and HIV is taking place this week in Melbourne, Australia. Researchers speaking at the conference have presented evidence that a cure for HIV/AIDS could be in the near future. Several cases were reported where the HIV virus could not be detected in the patients. One child treated in Canada has remained free of the virus for 8 years. These patients do remain on the HIV drugs due to setbacks from other similar cases.

AIDS 2014 Melbourne, Australia-slide0
Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images
sign from the conference
sign from the conferencePhoto by Graham Denholm/Getty Images

Two Australian men received bone marrow transplants to treat cancer. Both men remain free of HIV over three years later while continuing to take the HIV drugs. Two American men received the same treatment in 2012. They stopped taking the HIV drugs and the virus quickly returned.

Five Canadian babies born to mothers with HIV were treated immediately after birth and show no signs of the virus eight years later. One of the children was briefly taken off the drugs. The virus returned and the child was placed back on the medication.

The only person to be completely cured was Timothy Brown. He received a bone marrow transplant from a donor who has the genetic mutation that causes the immune system to resist HIV. Timothy Brown remains virus free and not taking any drugs.

Researchers now believe HIV finds a hiding place in the body immediately after infection that prevents it from being completely destroyed. Danish researchers have found that using a cancer drug can drive the virus out of hiding. They are now looking for ways to cause the immune system to attack the virus while it is exposed.

Researchers at Temple University are working toward ways to cut the DNA of the virus out of cells using experimental gene therapy.

A combination of these different research paths could combine to create a true permanent cure to HIV and AIDS in the near future.