Dear Kim,

I keep hearing news stories about people being cured of HIV, more often lately. If this is true, then why isn’t it available to more people with HIV? I have an uncle with HIV and he hasn’t been offered a cure by his doctor. Can you tell me what’s going on?

Thanks,
Cure my Uncle

Dear Cure,

Curing HIV has been the subject of a lot of research since AIDS was first identified in the United States in the 80s. In 2007, an experimental stem-cell treatment rid a man known as the “Berlin Patient” of the virus, as well as a second woman several years later. These patients were both battling blood cancer and received bone marrow transplants, a treatment that can be very dangerous and painful – too risky to perform on people who are not sick with life-threatening cancers. The donors in both cases had a gene that causes resistance to HIV, present in the marrow.

More recently, it seems that two patients have been cured of HIV without this aggressive kind of treatment. Both are what scientists refer to as “elite controllers” of the HIV virus. That is, their bodies fought the virus off on their own. Researchers are not yet sure how these individuals’ bodies rid themselves of HIV entirely, but are hopeful that studying these cases will help develop a cure for all HIV-positive individuals soon.

The best way to prevent illness and deaths from AIDS is to prevent HIV infection in the first place. Get tested regularly, use condoms, and take measures to reduce your risk. Folks who are already infected with HIV can live normal, healthy lifespans and avoid passing the virus on to others by seeing a healthcare provider and taking prescribed medication correctly and consistently.

Hopefully, one day soon we will have a complete cure for HIV. In the meantime, be safe, be well, and be yourself.

Kim