Coming back from the 6th International AIDS Society (IAS) Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention held in Rome in July, scientists working toward an HIV cure consider that a strong political will is needed to win the battle.
Online PR News – 29-July-2011 – – HIV currently infects more than 34 million individuals worldwide, with 7,200 daily new cases.
Although antiretroviral therapy can control viral replication in most patients having access to it, it does not cure HIV infection. Life-long viral reservoirs are always established which are not reached by current therapies. Consequently, patients have to take their medications endlessly, implying problems of toxicity, adherence, resistance and cost.
In poor-resource countries, access to antiretroviral drugs remains limited to less than 40 percent of patients needing them.
According to experts, the cost of life-long antiretroviral therapy could reach 60 billion dollars yearly within two decades.
To reach the ambitious goal of a HIV cure, scientists need to better understand the mechanisms of HIV persistence, in which cells does HIV hide, how these cells are maintained, and to develop innovative strategies to target the virus in its reservoirs.
Great strides have already been achieved and new drug candidates identified in order to "purge" the HIV reservoirs. These molecules would activate dormant HIV integrated in cell genes, and allow them to die of infection or to be destroyed by the immune system. Another approach would be to generate HIV resistant cells with gene therapy.
Despite these advances, a lot remains to be done. Scientists need better animal models of persistent infection to test these new strategies, better virological tools to measure the effects of these novel approaches, intense drug screening to get a pipeline of molecules to test.
Although some governmental and private agencies have recently decided to create specific budget lines for HIV cure research, much more money is needed to fit the goal.
Alain Lafeuillade, MD, PhD, Chair of the "International Workshop on HIV Persistence, Reservoirs and Eradication Strategies" to be held next December, was one of the HIV cure experts present in Rome last week.
"We need the same kind of political will as when President Kennedy decided to send a man on the moon within a decade," remarked Alain Lafeuillade. "Commitment for HIV cure at the top political level will only be able to open the path to success," he added.
Finding an HIV cure would be a win-win situation, both for patients and governments.