As the Pacific Tribune reported last year, the “shock-and-kill” approach to curing HIV may be the end to the search for the cure of the virus. And on this World AIDS Day, more news has broken of a potential cure being on the horizon for HIV and AIDS. The revolutionary cancer drug class responsible is known as checkpoint inhibitors. Although, these drugs have not been applied in cases when a person does not currently have cancer, a large-scale clinical trial is currently being done by the National Cancer Institute on the results these drugs have on cells of the virus. That study is set to end in the year 2020.
Checkpoint inhibitors are essentially designed to virtually unmask tumors that are covered in proteins which send messages to immune cells, telling the cell they are safe for the body. These drugs are also able to stop the messages from being sent by the tumor, as well as stop the immune cells from accepting the messages. Regardless of the action, these checkpoint inhibitors are able to make the cancer seen and eradicated by immune system.
The breakthrough was found when a patient who was living with both HIV and lung cancer was given the drug called Nivolumab, a checkpoint inhibitor also known as Opdivo. It is believed that through a process called “shock-and-kill” this drug awakened the virus cells within the immune cells causing it to replicate, allowing other immune cells to identify and kill the infected ones. Essentially, eradicating the HIV cells in the same manner it would cancer cells.
Nearly 1 in 6 men who have sex with men will be diagnosed with HIV in the lifetime. While 22% of Transgender women are currently living with HIV and/or AIDS. As well, places such as Washington D.C. are facing numbers more than thirteen times higher than the national of average of people living there with the virus. This is why news of any potential breakthroughs in the search for a cure is highly welcomed by those communities and areas where so many are affected.
Despite the fact we have seen scientific and technological advancements since the first HIV case was reported, stigma and discrimination have kept individuals living with HIV from receiving appropriate care and treatment in health care services. However, knowing your status is one of the easiest ways to combat this disease and to help raise awareness while fighting stigma.
Click here to find testing locations in your area. Take a friend, a spouse, sibling, or even take your children and use the opportunity to teach them about healthcare and proper protection from infections.
Sign up for information on the virus and how to help find a cure, here.