A Cure for HIV

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Photo Credits: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Eram Ashir and Daniella Fragile

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks and weakens the immune system. It was once thought to be incurable, but that has now been disproved, as three people have now been cured. 

According to the New York Times, as of 2022 the third person has been cured of HIV in New York. The New York woman was cured of HIV after she was treated with a stem-cell transplant from blood taken from the umbilical cord. Umbilical cord blood is easier to obtain than the special stem cells in the bone marrow transplants, and the blood does not need to be as closely matched to the recipient.

It is unclear why umbilical cord stem cells worked this well, but one possible explanation is that these cells are more adaptable, and are therefore more effective against HIV in a greater variety of patients. (New York Times; LiveScience; NBC; WebMD)

Though recent developments were clouded in the news by Covid-19 over the past two years, two other patients have been cured, one in 2012 and 2016.

Timothy Brown and Adam Castillejo were both treated with bone marrow transplants from donors who had a rare genetic mutation that blocks the HIV infection. These transplants also contained special stem cells that develop into all types of blood cells, including the T-cells that are targeted by HIV and are critical to the immune system.

This breakthrough shows that HIV doesn’t have to be a lifelong and incurable disease for the 37 million people worldwide who suffer from it.