Thursday, October 31, 2013

New Videos: is a HIV cure possible? Public forum discusses the latest on HIV cure research





On October 1st, CIRM along with the AIDS Research Institute and the Gladstone Institutes hosted an inspiring public forum in San Francisco about the current state of HIV cure research. If you were not among the 100+ in attendance, not to worry, today we posted video recordings of the event on our website or you can watch them above.

I highly recommend the videos, which include brief talks and a panel discussion by a distinguished lineup of clinicians, researchers and advocates, many of whom have dedicated their life’s work toward finding a cure for HIV infection. My colleague Don Gibbons also wrote a very insightful blog about the town hall event which include his personal reflections about the search for a HIV cure.

Although antiretroviral therapy has dramatically extended the life of HIV infected individuals, the life-long daily regimen of pills is not a cure. The drugs’ side effects lead to various complications such as increased incidence of heart disease and cancer that significantly reduces lifespans. Not to mention the fact that of the 26 million HIV positive individuals who need treatment, 17 million of those don’t have access to antiretroviral therapy. As Warner Greene, director of the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology, mentioned during the panel discussion:

The only hope for Africa is a cure because the world is not able and not willing to put the money forward that’s necessary to put everybody [HIV positive individuals] for the rest of their lives on antiretroviral therapy. It’s a huge number. So the cure is absolutely essential for Africa. So therefore whatever the cure is, it has to be scalable, it has to be safe and it has to be usable in the developing world. 
Based on these realities, the recent isolated reports of individuals being cured of HIV infection have brought a lot of excitement as well as cautiousness. That’s what motivated this forum: to provide an interface between HIV experts and the community to ask, are we there yet with a HIV cure? As Jeff Sheehy states in his introductory remarks during the forum:
The great news is these reports of a cure are real. But the sobering news is that making a cure that’s safe and available for most people with HIV remains a significant challenge. A huge challenge. But importantly the proofs of concept that are provided by the case reports have made it possible for us to seriously think about and actually seriously work towards developing a cure that will one day work for most people with HIV. Our goal [during this forum] is to engage the community, initiate a dialogue, clear up some of the misconceptions, tamp down some of the hype and some of the hype has been absolutely crazy. But I want to note that we can be realistically hopeful that there are solid grounds for pragmatic optimism.
In addition to these videos, also visit our HIV/AIDS fact sheet to learn more about CIRM-funded projects related to HIV research.

Todd Dubnicoff

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