The annual International AIDS Conference kicks off on Sunday in Washington, DC with 20,000 scientists attending. Leading up to the event, however, the Nobel Laureate and co-discoverer of HIV Francoise Barre-Sinoussi has some hopeful news: he thinks a cure may be on the horizon.
“Today’s the first step,” he said yesterday as scientists released what they’re calling a roadmap for finding a cure, Washington Post reports.
The roadmap doesn’t contain a magic bullet of a new wonder drug, and the scientists emphasized that a cure was still years in the future. But they are hopeful that taking a systematic approach to studying rare cases in which individuals have developed immunity to HIV could lead to a cure in the future.
Washington Post notes the multi-tiered strategy focuses on extrapolating from rare instances like Timothy Ray Brown, whose HIV completely disappeared without drugs after a rare blood stem cell transplant intended to treat his cancer in 2006.
Full transplants are not the answer, but scientists believe a natural structural immunity transplanted into Brown may hold a key for finding a broader cure in the future.
In addition to exploring options based in natural immunity, the scientists are also hoping to find a drug-related treatment that would activate dormant HIV cells to make them detectable, and then kill them. “Last spring, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, researchers reported that a drug normally used for lymphoma made some latent HIV rapidly detectable in six patients. Deeks has a similar study under way using an old anti-alcoholism drug,” writes the Post.
The scientists’ roadmap is a strategy that focuses on wider distribution of AIDS treatment drugs to those in need—right now just 8 of 15 million infected people in poor areas are being treated—so that their lives may be prolonged long enough for the cures they’re seeking to be perfected.
Michel Sidibe, executive director of UN’s AIDS program, said, “The previous generation fought for treatment. Our generation must fight for a cure.”
Read more at Washington Post.