Researchers attending AIDS 2020, or the 23rd International AIDS Conference, presented new dimensions in fighting against the deadly virus. Their studies indicate the possibility of long-term remission from HIV, and of preventing infection through an injection.
As reported by CNN, one of the studies showed a Brazilian man who had experienced long-term HIV remission while only undergoing the standard antiviral drug treatment. This man had been diagnosed as HIV-positive eight years prior, and today he shows no signs of the virus in his body. CNN reports that he was one of the 30 participants of a clinical trial hoping to find a cure for the virus. After the man paused his drug regimen in 2019, he underwent testing for the virus “every three weeks…for up to 57 weeks.” By week 57, doctors had found that the virus “was undetectable” in his body, and he tested negative after further HIV antibody testing.
However, the Brazilian man was the only such case, and the research remains unpublished.
As of press time, stem cell transplants have cleared only two people of HIV. Studies have shown that stem cell treatments are not foolproof since it could cause complications, such as transplant rejection. They also become more vulnerable to infection.
AIDS 2020 also heard another study found that injecting the “investigational drug” cabotegravir every eight weeks prevented HIV infections more effectively than daily oral pills. According to the research, cabotegravir injections prevented HIV infections better than oral pills by 66%. The study compared the dose with Truvada, pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, taken orally. This study also remains unpublished.
Cabotegravir is the first effective anti-HIV injection, as the study indicated. Still, the US Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved cabotegravir to treat or prevent HIV.
Data from the UNAIDS organization also showed that there were 1.7 million new HIV diagnoses in 2019, while 38 million people live with the virus. In the same year, 690,000 people died of AIDS, but the death rate has declined by 39% since 2010. Increased access to antiretroviral drug treatments and new preventive drugs caused the decline.
The National Institutes of Health sponsored the study. They also issued a press release, where it hoped that more people could avail of preventive medicine since they could choose a “more discreet option” over daily pills. Yet, more research is still needed.