The history of the HIV and AIDS epidemic was at one point plagued with sickness, fear, and death from a new and unknown viruses. There has been tremendous progress in science that can target the HIV virus. According to avert.org, a website dedicated, in 2017, for the first time ever, more than half of the global population living with HIV are getting antiretroviral treatment, around 19.5 million people. These scientific advancements have given people who have access to the treatment a way to live long and healthy lives with HIV.
There has been a lot of excitement lately over the news that a second person has been cured of HIV. According to USA Today, the still-experimental surgery involves chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant using stem cells. It’s not only painful, it comes with a lot of risks and there are a lot of harsh side effects that last years.
Does this mean that stem cell therapy could lead to a cure for HIV? HIV weakens the immune system. If someone does not get treatment for HIV infection, their body will slowly progress into the last stage of disease, the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or AIDS. When HIV has sufficiently destroyed the immune system, AIDS develops and leaves the person infected vulnerable to disease and infection, and incapable of fighting the disease and infection off. As the symptoms get worse, they will eventually lead to death. According to americansforcures.org, stem cell approaches that involve removing HIV+ patients’ blood-forming stem cells, aka they will ultimately become all the cells of the immune system—then modifying them to be resistant to or fight HIV. These blood-forming stem cells can then be relocated back into the patient and hopefully reduce the risks associated with HIV.