At the conference, Julian Elliot from The Burnet Institute in Melbourne spoke of our ‘combo-prevention future’, where a successful vaccine and cure could potentially end the epidemic.
He explained why current ART will never cure HIV by explaining that there is no such thing as an undetectable viral loadA measurement of the quantity of HIV RNA in the blood. Viral load blood test results are expressed as the number of copies (of HIV) per milliliter of blood plasma. as most PLHIVPerson (or people) Living with HIV. This term is now preferred over the older PLWHA. on treatment will have at least three copies of virusA small infective organism which is incapable of reproducing outside a host cell. per ml of blood, a level below that which is currently picked up by current viral load screening.
This perpetual low-level activity of HIV, plus the presence of HIV DNA in latently infected cells is essentially why we are destined to take current treatment for the rest of our lives.
The anatomical reservoirs where most of these latently infected or ‘sleeping’ cells lie are the brain, gastrointestinal tract and genitals, he pointed out.
Dr Elliot tabled a couple of strategies currently being investigated.
One is to add additional agents to traditional treatment regimens in the hope of eliminating any residual virus.
The other is waking up the sleeping cells with agents such as histone deacetylase inhibitors, including romidepson or vorinostat – the latter agent being the one he and colleagues are currently trialling with a group of positive trial participants at The Alfred in Melbourne.
If you’re in Melbourne and interested in participating in this trial, contact the Alfred Infectious Diseases Unit clinicalPertaining to or founded on observation and treatment of participants, as distinguished from theoretical or basic science. research team on 03 9076 6908. Participants are required to be currently on treatment (but not a protease inhibitor), virologically suppressed for the last three years and have a stable CD4 count of greater than 500.