If you think you’re at risk of HIV, it's important to get tested to find out your HIV status. Testing is the only way to know if you have the virus.
If you have already been for a test and your result came back positive, you will be advised to start treatment. Treatment is the best way to stay healthy until there is a cure, but you must take it every day.
Will there be a cure for HIV?
Researchers and scientists are talking more and more about the possibility of a cure. We now know HIV as well as certain cancers.
A lot of recent research has focused on finding a ‘functional cure’. A functional cure means that HIV still exists in the body but at such low levels it can’t be detected by a blood test or make you ill.
The most well-known case of a potential functional cure occurred in a man called Timothy Brown, also known as the 'Berlin Patient'. In 2008, he had a bone marrow transplant to treat leukaemia that also seemed to have cured his HIV. However, bone marrow transplants are very dangerous and it's still not fully understood why the procedure worked in this case.1
Scientists have also tried giving babies born to HIV-positive mothers early treatment to stop HIV hiding in their body and prevent it from spreading.
In 2013, a baby in Mississippi, USA received treatment just 30 hours after birth, and another baby from California, USA was treated in 2014 when she was just four hours old. Unfortunately, HIV has since been found in the Mississippi baby and a similar outcome is expected for the California baby.2
Functional cures are difficult to achieve because HIV hides just out of reach in hidden 'reservoirs'. Destroying the reservoirs may be the key to curing HIV.
There has also been lots of research into an HIV vaccine. However, it would only offer partial protection and would need to be used in combination with other treatments.3
What should I do until there is a cure?
For now, the best thing to do for your health is to test regularly for HIV and if you have the virus, to keep taking your treatment.
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- 1. Cohen, J. (2014, 25 September) 'How did the 'Berlin patient' rid himself of HIV?' Science
- 2. New York Times (2014, 10 July) ’Evidence of H.I.V. Found in a Child Said to Be Cured'
- 3. Akpogheneta, O. (2011) 'Correlates of protection and HIV vaccine development' The Lancet Infectious Diseases 11(11):814-815