HIV Cure

HIV Cure Basics
HIV is a virus that makes many copies of itself to attack the immune system, which is the body’s natural way of fighting sickness. The immune system has some parts that actively protect the body and some parts that are inactive. The inactive parts act as a memory of times when the body has fought a sickness. If HIV gets into the inactive parts of the immune system, it will stop making copies and become inactive. The inactive parts of the immune system will sometimes become active again to help the body fight certain sicknesses. Any HIV in these newly active parts will start making copies to attack the immune system again.

The reason HIV is so difficult to cure is because it is really good at hiding in the inactive parts of the immune system. HIV treatments are very good at stopping the HIV from making copies of itself. If a person’s viral load is so low that a test can’t find any HIV in the body, it’s called an ‘undetectable viral load’. But the HIV treatments cannot reach the HIV that is hiding in the inactive parts. This is why people living with HIV are recommended to take their HIV treatments every day, so that there will be protection whenever the inactive parts become active again.

There are a few different ways that scientists are trying to cure HIV.

Shock and Kill
The shock and kill way uses different ways to ’shock’ the inactive parts of the immune system to make the HIV become active again and to use the current HIV treatment to ‘kill’ the HIV. We have not yet found a way to shock all of the inactive HIV into becoming active again.

Block and Lock
The block and lock way uses a medication to ‘block’ the inactive HIV from becoming active again and then find a way to ‘lock’ HIV from ever becoming active again. We have not yet found a medication that will lock the HIV for life.

Improving the Immune System
There are a few ways that the immune system can be improved to cure HIV. One way is to change the immune system so that HIV can no longer attack it. This process has been shown to cure HIV, but this is very risky as the immune system has to be completely destroyed and then rebuilt in a way that HIV will not be able to attack it. Another way of improving the immune system is to help teach it how to fight HIV. One reason why HIV is life-threatening, if left untreated, is because it attacks the immune system faster than the immune system can learn how to fight it. We can help our immune system to learn how to fight HIV, but our immune systems are not always very good at learning how to fight certain sicknesses. We have not yet been able to teach the immune system to fight off HIV on its own for life.

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