14 French HIV Patients Controls HIV After Stopping Treatment, New Study Says

First Posted: Mar 16, 2013 10:41 PM EDT

According to a new study conducted by French researchers, some patients might be able to have functional cure for HIV. The study involved 14 HIV patients who had anti-retroviral drugs for years and after stop having the drugs, they were still able to control their HIV infection.

Two weeks ago, in the United States a baby born in Mississippi had apparently been cured of infection with the virus that causes AIDS.

Lead author Asier Saez-Cirion of the Pasteur Institute in Paris said both cases have something in common described as "functionally cured" of HIV after aggressive anti-retroviral drug treatment within 30 hours of birth. While all 14 patients technically still have HIV, in most cases the virus is undetectable without the use of ultrasensitive laboratory equipment. The patients were aged between 33 to 66.

In this study, the adult patients were treated for HIV with a variety of anti-retroviral drugs, each within 10 weeks of infection, and stopped the treatment approximately three years afterwards on average, Radio France Internationale reported.

Dr. Saez-Cirion said that most of the patients stopped treatment because they were in studies testing whether patients could take drug holidays. But some just stopped on their own, he said.

Despite keeping a low level HIV in their cells, the patients had viral loads under control for a median seven years without drug treatment, the study said.

Not every patients who get fast treatment are able to control the virus by stopping medications once it appears to be under control. According to researchers, only approximately five to 15 percent of HIV patients are able to successfully manage it as most end up getting symptoms of the infection once they stop taking the drugs.

Globally, the number of people newly infected with HIV, which can be transmitted through blood and by semen during sex, is decreasing.

Majority of 34 million people with HIV worldwide will have to take anti-AIDS drugs known as antiretroviral therapy for their entire life. These drugs keep the disease in check but are not free from side effects and are very expensive.

From its discovery in 1981 through 2006, AIDS has killed over 25 million people and has infected approximately 0.6 percent of the world’s population. At 2.5 million, the number of new infections in 2011 was 20% lower than in 2001, according to the United National AIDS programme ( UNAIDS).

The findings were published in the journal PLoS Pathogens.

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