Two weeks after an infant was reported to be cured of HIV, 14 adults have been declared functionally cured of the virus thanks to the early intervention of antiretroviral drug treatments. On average, the 14 adults have been off medication for seven years. One has gone 10-and-a-half years without drugs. “It’s not eradication, but they can clearly live without pills for a very long period of time,” said Sáez-Cirión of the Pasteur Institute’s unit for regulation of retroviral infections in Paris. The institute analyzed 70 people who had begun treatment just 35 days to 10 weeks after having become infected.
What’s the Big Idea?
Early treatment achieves higher degrees of success by limiting the reservoir of HIV that can persist, limiting the diversity of the virus and preserving the immune response to the virus that keeps it in check, said Sáez-Cirión. Paradoxically, it was the weak immune system of the 14 adults which allowed the virus to be caught early and prompted treatment. Medical health experts hope that stories of success brought on by early treatment will help remove the fear and stigma of being tested for HIV and encourage individuals who may be potentially infected to come forward.