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HIV Cure Research: Still in Infancy Stages

Paul Sax, MD, explains the lack of concrete progress in the curing of HIV.

Segment Description: Paul Sax, MD, clinical director, professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School; clinical director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, explains the lack of concrete progress in the curing of HIV.

Contagion®: At the conclusion of our last HIV Peer Exchange program in 2017, you indicated that HIV cure research is still in its infancy. What efforts have been made in the last 2 years and how much further do we have to go?

Paul Sax, MD: “So, I’m going to say that the HIV cure research is still in its infancy. Unfortunately, there hasn't been a whole lot of concrete progress in terms of curing additional individuals with HIV.

We still only have 1 person who's been cured of HIV, that's the person who was given a stem-cell transplant for leukemia with cells that really are uninfectable. We now know that that approach alone isn't enough, it's been tried in other people and it has not been successful. We also know that the first efforts at so-called know ‘kick-and-kill’ mechanisms of augmenting the expression of the virus and then trying to eradicate it with an immune booster such as a vaccine, that that didn't work either.

So, there have been a series of negative studies in the cure area that really tells us this is going to be a very long and difficult fight. However, as an optimist by nature — there are a lot of really smart people working on this problem and I anticipate that it will be curable sometime in the future.”