How Close Are We to an HIV Cure?


Gina Garippo

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It seems that everywhere you look, headlines announce a new breakthrough in HIV/AIDS treatment. Researchers report they’ve found a cure, or indicate that they’re just steps away from one. Understandably, these reports raise the expectations and hopes of people living with the virus. But are they true? How close are we really to a cure for HIV?

There is currently no cure for HIV, though research is progressing. Scientists are still analyzing and debating some widely reported cases in which a cure seems to have been found. As of 2013, one patient from Berlin reportedly no longer has the virus after receiving a stem cell transplant from a donor with a rare genetic mutation. And reports from Mississippi indicate that a baby born with HIV was cured after receiving treatment medication shortly after birth.  

Although encouraging, these cases alone may not translate into a quick cure for the millions of people who have HIV. Each was isolated to only one person in specific circumstances. However, these breakthroughs are helping scientists by serving as a springboard to better understand the virus and potential ways to cure it.

Research Headed in the Right Direction

Although it’s natural to be disappointed that a cure isn’t right around the corner, it’s important to recognize that effective treatment is available today.

Though it was untreatable a few decades ago, HIV can now be managed with medication, regular monitoring, and lifestyle changes. With treatment, people with HIV can stay healthy for longer than ever before. Even if HIV has progressed to AIDS, proven treatments can extend and improve quality of life. Today, the death rate for AIDS in the United States is down by more than 80 percent compared with numbers from 1995.

Taking Part in Your Own Solution

Don’t wait on the sidelines until a cure arrives. You have the power to feel your best right now. To help:

Follow your treatment plan

It’s important that you follow your treatment plan exactly as prescribed. That means taking your medication every day in the right amount and at the right time. Missing even one dose can allow the virus to become resistant to drugs, and could cause side effects that will make you even sicker. To keep your virus under control, take your medication correctly and work closely with your doctor if you experience problems.

Watch out for phony cures

It’s normal to want to try anything to rid yourself of HIV. But beware of unproven “miracle” drugs or untested treatments that are sold to hopeful patients. Most of these treatments are completely ineffective and can get in the way of proven treatments. For example, research shows the herb St. John’s wort, marketed as a natural HIV remedy, can interfere with certain HIV medications.

Consider participating in a clinical trial    

Researchers continue to work vigorously to find a cure for HIV. You can be part of the process. Not only can your participation in a clinical trial pave the way for future treatment breakthroughs, you may benefit by being one of the first to receive promising treatments.

Learn more about HIV/AIDS through the National Institutes of Health

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Aug 2, 2017

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