It’s been decades since the discovery of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Ever since its discovery, researchers have been working tirelessly to figure out the characteristics and inner workings of the virus to find a cure.
A definite, traditional cure has not yet been established, even though researchers and scientists consider two specific, yet expansive, methods as “cures”.
Functional vs. Sterilising
Researchers, scientists and doctors are currently working on these procedures, which are classified as “functional” and “sterilising” cures.
Professor Caroline Tiemessen, head of cell biology for the Centre for HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) at the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) told Health24 that we are still a long way off from a complete cure.
“Achieving HIV remission may be possible for some, but we need a better understanding of who would benefit. It is clear that early treatment is not enough for most, and additional interventions need to be found.
“With regards to there ever being a cure for HIV and Aids, we would first need to define the HIV cure – complete eradication like the Berlin Patient versus HIV remission, as in a functional cure, which is sustained control of the virus to undetectable levels without antiretroviral drugs.
“Achieving HIV remission is the more feasible option, whereas achieving a complete cure is a major challenge,” said Tiemessen.
The case of Timothy Ray Brown, better known as the Berlin Patient, and his journey to recovery, caused a lot of speculation that the method used to treat his leukaemia, along with his HIV, might be the answer to curing HIV. The situation is however very complicated.
Brown received chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, which is one of the methods in the category of sterilising cures.