The 23rd International AIDS Conference, originally scheduled for San Francisco/Oakland in late July was held virtually in early July 2020 (Yuck! I’m getting sick of virtual conferences!). Among the very interesting scientific and medical developments presented was the case of a possible cure coming out of Federal University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, presented by Diaz and colleagues.
There are many very powerful combinations of HIV drugs that suppress the replication of the virus so low that no virus can be detected in the blood. However, even after many years of being undetectable, when the person stops taking the medicine, the virus “magically” appears in the blood as it comes out of hiding. So let’s quickly review why the suppression of the virus from HIV treatment doesn’t totally cure or get rid of the infection like the drugs do for an infection like Hepatitis C (see my article dated Jan 2020, “Why we haven’t cured HIV infection….”).
I should also note that there have been some unique cases where individuals have been cured, as I reported last year (posted April 15, 2019, “Could there be a real cure for HIV?”). So again I ask, could there be a real cure for HIV?
Recall that when the HIV virus infects a cell of the immune systems (white blood cells known as T-lymphocytes or T-cells), the T-cell is usually revved up and active and the virus turns the cell into a factory to make more viruses. Then the cell dies and the virus spreads to other cells. But this doesn’t happen in all T-cells.
In some special types, after the virus gets in, instead of making more virus, the infecting virus just chills out as the infected cell quiets down. So the virus is essentially sleeping inside the infected cell and not doing anything. In the quiet state, called a latently infected cell, HIV drugs don’t