World Aids Day 2016: Advances in HIV/AIDS research
Though the world still has a long way to go in finding a cure for HIV/AIDS, it would be good to see how far we’ve progressed in fighting the pandemic this World Aids Day 2016.
There is some good news: the US government reported that new HIV have decreased by seven percent between 2010 and 2013 and the death rate has dropped by about 30 percent.
More to the point, according to the World Health Organization, less people died of HIV in 2015 as compared to any point in almost 20 years. Also, new HIV infections are at its lowest since 1991.
World Aids Day 2016: Hope for the infected
For those who are infected by the virus, around 37 million people around the world, some advances in HIV/AIDS science can give them hope.
Right now, at least two million new people have begun to take antiretroviral therapy in 2015, which is the largest yearly increase of those taking the therapy.
This method can stop the spread of the HIV within the person’s body by reducing the viral load. This, in turn, reduces the risk of further spreading the virus to more people.
If both sexual partners are getting antiretroviral therapy, the chances of transmission can be negated by almost 96 percent.
For those who aren’t receiving the therapy well, there’s now an alternative treatment via monoclonal antibodies (though is still pending for approval with the Food and Drug Administration in the US).
World Aids Day 2016: Researching for a cure
But the best news comes from the National Institute for Health (NIH) in having made a discovery that could lead to an HIV vaccine.
Currently, the antibody being used can only neutralize about 90 percent of HIV variants. The new N6 discovery made by the NIH can reportedly take out 98 percent of the variants.
“We have an antibody now that essentially compensates for most of the diversity of the virus,” said Dr. Justin Bailey, assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told Huffington Post.
“The next big step is trying to design a vaccine that could induce an antibody like this, because if you could induce an N6-like antibody at high enough levels in vaccinated people, they’d probably all be protected against most HIV infections,” Bailey said.
On the other hand, a drug that’s already on the market– vedolizumab, which is used to treat ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease– might be used to supplement antiretroviral therapy, according to scientists from the NIH and Emory University.
World Aids Day 2016: Other scientific advances
For those taking the antiretrovirals, new research has come up with an antibody therapy that could help the person’s immune system.
The new gene-editing technology is also being used to look for a cure, with researchers at the University of California in San Francisco using the CRISPR-Cas9 technology to determine the resistance of human immune cells to HIV.
Lastly, researchers were able to identify the protein that allows HIV to go after human immune cells. This, in turn, can help them identify antibodies that can target the protein to stop the virus before it attacks the immune system.