Written on March 7, 2023 by Gillian (Gigi) Singer, MPH, Sexuality Educator & Certified Sexologist. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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You may be wondering, is there a cure for HIV/AIDS? As of right now, there is no cure for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). However, certain treatments make HIV untransmittable, prevent its progression, and prevent the transmission/contraction of HIV before or after exposure. Additionally, there is promising research that will hopefully lead to a cure for HIV and AIDS.
People diagnosed with HIV can go on live happy, long lives while protecting their sexual partners .
The Mayo Clinic reports: “HIV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It can also be spread by contact with infected blood and from illicit injection drug use or sharing needles. It can also be spread from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding” .
AIDS describes the virus in its advanced form when the immune system has been severely damaged. AIDS is the result of untreated HIV.
If you are HIV-positive and undergo consistent antiretroviral therapy (ART) as prescribed by your healthcare provider, you can get to a point where your viral load of HIV is no longer detectable. If the virus is not undetectable, you cannot sexually transmit the virus to anyone who is HIV-negative .
Dr. Anthony Fauci, M.D. (physician, scientist, immunologist, and former Chief Medical Advisor to the President of the United States) said, “The success of this HIV prevention strategy is contingent on achieving and maintaining an undetectable viral load—the amount of HIV genetic material in the blood—by taking medication to treat HIV daily as directed” .
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is treatment in the form of a pill or a shot that is taken as a preventative measure to reduce “your chances of getting HIV from sex or injection drug use. When taken as prescribed, PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV” .
There are three options :
If you are interested in taking PrEP, know that you will have regular follow-up visits, HIV tests, and prescription refills or shots.
Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is a prescription medication that is taken after a potential exposure to HIV during sex, through sharing needles/syringes/other equipment to inject drugs, or if you’ve been sexually assaulted. It is a 28-day course of treatment that requires consistency .
The sooner you take PEP after a potential or known exposure to HIV, the better. The CDC says, “Every hour counts” .
In mid-February of 2023, researchers announced that the fifth person ever, a 53-year-old German man, was cured of HIV . He has been off of treatment for four years and has no detectable HIV in his body, showing that this isn’t just a long-term remission.
This cure, however, has a long way to go before it could ever be offered on a larger scale—it is currently trialed only on cancer patients with no other options, and stem cell transplants are a high-risk procedure that essentially replaces a person’s immune system. The goal in these cases was to cure the patients’ cancer, but it has also resulted in curing HIV in now five people.
Stem cells are taken from person A and given to infected person B. Person A must have a genetic mutation that deletes the CCR5-delta32 protein, or the protein that would normally serve as a biological “gateway” for HIV to enter the body. Only about 1% of the entire population carries the required two copies of this genetic mutation, which leaves them immune to smallpox and the bubonic plague and resistant to HIV . Racial background is a determinant of this mutation: Within the United States, Canada, and Australia, the frequency is 8% to 10% within the Caucasian background individuals, but less than 1% in the Afro-American populations. There is also a very low frequency of the mutation among the population in eastern Asia but much higher towards western Asia” .