HIV is one of the most dreaded diseases in the world and it is not difficult to see why this disease is so scary.
You only have to see the poignant progression that this disease follows, leading to AIDS in some cases and leaving the patient, a debilitated mass of bony flesh.
So, how comforting would it be to many who are currently battling this disease to know that there is actually a cure, and there has been one since as far back as 2008.
There is a saying that goes What you don’t know doesn’t kill you; but in the case of HIV, what you didn’t know was actually killing you. Silently.
HIV works by attaching itself to a protein called CCR5 in the patient’s cells and replication continues until the body is ravaged by the disease. There are people who have a genetic mutation that makes them lack this CCR5. No CCR5, no protein for HIV to latch on to, so such people are immune to the disease and the cure of this disease lies with these people.
About 1% of the Caucasian population have this trait, hence the immunity.
There is a man called Timothy Ray Brown who had HIV in the mid-nineties and lived with the virus for 11 years till 2006. He had been managing his HIV albeit not too successfully but managing it the same till fate dealt another blow on him in 2006; he had developed a form of cancer known as acute myeloid leukemia.
His doctors decided to give him a bone marrow transplant for the leukemia and probably thought that since they would be giving him the transplant, they might as well get him a donor from the 1% of people that are resistant to HIV, which was what they did.
After the transplant, he was cured of the leukemia AND the HIV. To date, he has been free of HIV completely and he even set up a foundation to help with the cure for HIV.
The cure for HIV, though still in research would obviously not be too far from this.
Currently, due to the limitations of science, the bone marrow transplant is not advised unless it is a life or death situation due to the risks involved in bone marrow transplant.
Science is evolving everyday and what could not be done, say, 10 years ago can now be done and even the bone marrow transplant can be carried out without the intrusive bone marrow operation. What is needed can now be obtained from the blood of the donor.
This gives hope that those living with HIV would soon heave a sigh of relief. People with HIV can talk to their doctors about this option and if it would be right for them. Even if it isn’t, the eureka moment cannot be too far on the horizon.