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Date: 16 Mar 2012

Controversies in HIV cure research

Abstract

Background

Antiretroviral therapy significantly reduces HIV viral burden and prolongs life, but does not cure HIV infection. The major scientific barrier to a cure is thought to be the persistence of the virus in cellular and/or anatomical reservoirs.

Discussion

Most efforts to date, including pharmaco, immuno or gene therapy, have failed to cure patients, with the notable exception of a stem cell transplant recipient commonly known as the Berlin patient. This case has revived interest in the potential to cure HIV infection and has highlighted the need to resolve critical questions in the basic, pre-clinical and clinical research spheres as they pertain specifically to efforts to eradicate HIV from the body of an infected person (a sterilizing cure) or at least render the need for lifelong antiretroviral therapy obsolete (functional cure). This paper describes ongoing debates in each of these research spheres as they were presented and discussed at a satellite session that took place at the 6th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention in Rome in July 2011.

Summary

The resolution of these debates may have important implications for the search for a cure, the most efficient ways to identify and test promising interventions, and ultimately the availability of such a cure to diverse groups of HIV patients around the world.