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Editorial: A Cure, in Essence, for H.I.V. in Some Adults




 

Two weeks ago, American doctors reported that they had “functionally” cured a baby infected with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, with an aggressive treatment of drugs starting some 30 hours after the baby was born. Experts hailed the feat but cautioned that the findings might have little relevance to adults.

Now French researchers have identified 14 adults whose treatments with antiviral drugs began within a couple of months of infection, continued for one to seven and a half years, and then stopped. Their immune systems have been able to control their H.I.V. infection for years after the end of their treatment.

The patients are not fully cured, which would require eliminating all traces of the virus from the body. Rather they are in remission, with extremely low levels of the virus that their immune systems keep in check. This is referred to as a functional cure.

The researchers estimate that as many as 15 percent of adults who start treatment early and continue for at least a year may then be able to stop their drug regimen and live healthily without the drugs. Whether the virus will be held at bay forever or will reassert itself many years later is not known.

Although the study was small, the findings suggest that treatment should be started earlier for most people, a difficult feat without a lot more testing to identify who is infected and prompt treatment of those who test positive. The findings also suggest that many people taking antiviral drugs may be able to stop safely, provided doctors can find some sure way to identify them.



 


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Information in this article was accurate in March 18, 2013. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.