Danish scientists hope to have a widely available and affordable cure to HIV within several months. They are currently carrying out clinical trials on the new strategy where the virus could potentially be killed permanently by the immune system.
The team in Denmark is testing their technique on people now in order to prove effectiveness. It involves “unmasking the reservoirs” formed by the HIV virus inside cells, and bringing it to the surface. The scientists are hoping the body’s natural immune system can then kill the virus.
“I’m am almost certain that we will be successful in activating HIV from the reservoirs,” Senior Researcher Dr Ole Sogaard told the Telegraph newspaper.
“The challenge will be getting the patients’ immune system to recognize the virus and destroy it. This depends on the strength and sensitivity of individual immune systems, as well as how large a proportion of the hidden HIV is unmasked,” he added.
Should immune systems destroy the virus it would represent a major step forward in finding a cure for the virus which causes AIDS. Having already worked in laboratory tests, the new technique was so successful that the project was given $2.3 million of funding by the Danish Research Council.
With 15 patients involved in the trial and the first results due, Sogaard says the early signs are “promising.” However, he emphasized that maintaining awareness of risk factors remains critically important to combating HIV.
This is echoed by a new HIV prevention initiative in England focused on stopping the spread of the virus within a generation. The ‘It Starts With Me’ campaign established by the Terrence Higgins Trust charity (THT), funded by the UK Department of Health, highlights the need for personal responsibility and increased education surrounding the disease.
“We have the preventative tools at our fingertips with new testing and treatment technologies. Its just a matter of deploying those in the right way and motivating people,” THT Head of Programs Cary James told 429Magazine.
‘It Starts With Me’ places a priority on regular HIV testing. Screening every 12 months is recommended in general, and more frequently for individuals placing themselves at higher risks of transmission. Individual responsibility is central to this initiative.
“There is increasing emphasis on HIV testing as a means of stopping onward infection. However, everyone knows what you should be telling other people, less so about they themselves,” said James.
The theme of individuals assuming ownership over HIV prevention is one which James believes should resonate with countries worldwide and developing world nations in particular.
“Its about personal responsibility, people taking ownership of their own lives. Finding out one’s HIV status early is important in any situation, but this is especially the case in areas where there is less control over spread of the disease,” James concluded.