July 17, 2014

Kick and kill: Is this the best new hope for an AIDS cure?

Written by Sarah Boseley, The Guardian

In 33 years of the Aids pandemic, which has perhaps caused more shock and anguish than any other infectious disease since the black death, only one person has ever been cured. That man was “the Berlin patient”, now identified as Timothy Ray Brown, an American treated in Germany, whose case was publicised in 2009. Until last week, the world hoped that a small child had joined him, but the Mississippi baby, now nearly four years old, is back on antiretroviral drugs after two tantalising years when regular tests failed to find any trace of the HIV virus in her body.

At the International Aids Conference that opens in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday, the relapse of the Mississippi baby will figure in much of the conversation on and off the platform. Drug treatment, now reaching nearly 13 million people, has stabilised the Aids epidemic in most countries, but it is expensive, and may be unsustainable because it requires huge efforts from overstretched health systems, especially in developing countries. Death rates are reducing – around 1.5 million last year – but while new infections have dropped by more than a third since 2001, when there were 3.4 million, still two million people are infected with HIV every year. Increasingly, Aids is becoming a bigger issue in marginalised populations who are harder to reach and may live on the fringes of their societies – sex workers, men who have sex with men in countries such as Uganda, where homosexuality is not tolerated, and drug users in eastern Europe.

Read the full post on The Guardian here.