Is there a cure for HIV or AIDS?

There is no functional cure for HIV or AIDS, meaning that there is no procedure or medication which has been scientifically proven to reliably eliminate the virus from a person's body or reverse the damage to the immune system.

There have been many advances in HIV treatments and therapies in recent years that have dramatically improved the quality of life of people with HIV, and more people are living longer with HIV than we used to think was possible.

There are also people whose bodies naturally suppress the virus without medication (referred to as "elite controllers"), though this happens rarely. Even some elite controllers opt to take antiretrovirals to reduce the damage caused by HIV to their immune system.

One well-studied, but not yet replicated case of a person who has been 'functionally cured' of HIV is Timothy Brown, also known as "the Berlin Patient." You can read about the science behind the Berlin Patient's case on our blog, BETA. The term 'functionally cured' means that the person doesn't have to take medications, and there's so little of the virus in their body that they aren't being affected by it and can't infect anyone else. It's not 100% clear whether or not this will stay true in the long term.

Other cases of HIV-infected infants born to HIV-positive mothers that were given antiretrovirals soon after birth have been thought to be functionally cured of HIV. The “Mississippi Baby” maintained an undetectable viral load off of antiretrovirals for more than two years but eventually the virus did return and begin replicating. A young French woman infected during birth and given early treatment is described as being in “remission” since she has maintained an undetectable viral load for 12 years off treatment. Other French adults, known as the VISCONTI cohort, who received early HIV treatment have maintained undetectable viral loads even without antiretroviral therapy. It is not clear if these “post-treatment controllers” will suppress HIV replication in the long-term, or if the virus will return—as it did in the case of the Mississippi Baby.     

Want to know more about progress towards a cure for HIV?  BETA has a number of other articles about the latest in HIV cure research.


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