Today’s HIV/AIDS treatments—which AIDS Research Alliance helped to develop—can keep patients alive, but they do not cure AIDS. For every two people who go on antiretroviral therapy, five more people become newly infected. The number of patients living with HIV/AIDS outpaces our ability to treat them. Instead, science must find a cure.
Thirty anti-HIV drugs are used in various combinations to treat HIV/AIDS. These drugs extend human life and represent substantial progress. Yet, whenever this therapy is interrupted—even after many years of treatment, HIV rebounds within a matter of weeks. This re-ignited infection will, if not treated, restart the patient’s progression toward disease and eventual death.
Impervious to treatment, latent HIV hides within the DNA of the host patient. In these “reservoirs,” the virus escapes the reach of even the most powerful anti-HIV drugs. No cure for HIV/AIDS is possible without eradicating the HIV reservoirs.
A consensus is emerging among HIV scientists that it may be possible to eradicate the HIV reservoirs, and that such research should be pursued. A variety of strategies targeting the HIV reservoirs are described in the “Rome Statement for an HIV Cure,” which was presented at the July 2011 6th International AIDS Society Conference. To read this statement, click here.
One strategy proposes to purge the latent virus by “activating” the cellular reservoirs so that they will produce replicating virus, in combination with HAART therapy, today’s standard of care. However, a drug must be found that will flush the HIV reservoirs of hidden virus, so that HAART and the immune system can rid the body of HIV.
AIDS Research Alliance is developing such a drug, prostratin, which could play an important role in activating the HIV reservoirs.