July 26, 2017

Positive news from high level HIV science conference

Headline news from the ninth International Aids Society (IAS) Conference on HIV Science in Paris is that a child born with HIV has been found free of the virus for a long time, after a high dose of treatment early in life.

Worldwide, news outlets are reporting that the discovery has raised hopes: the fact that the 9-year-old South African girl has been in remission for more than eight years holds clues for ongoing cure research. This is the third time in recent years that scientists have reported on individuals being able to hold the virus at bay. Journalists have been urged not to report this as an “Aids cure” – the patient is in remission and her case further enhances scientists’ understanding of how a cure might be developed.    

Other news from the IAS conference is further confirmation that when HIV positive people take their treatment regularly, they almost zero the probability of spreading HIV infection to others.

AND: "Broadly neutralizing antibodies" or BNA’s are another buzzword at the conference. In a Thai trial, infusions of antibodies of those rare individuals who produce very effective HIV neutralizers were given to participants to evaluate how these would function as immune boosters. This experimental therapy has held back one man's HIV infection for 10 months, participants at the IAS conference heard.

Good news all round, but larger studies need to be done to increase scientists’ understanding of this approach.