A leading research lab in Port St. Lucie thinks it might have made a potential breakthrough in the treatment and eradication of HIV. Current medications suppress the virus to undetectable levels in patients' bodies, allowing them to live relatively normal, long lives. However, the crafty little bug hides elsewhere in the body and can come roaring back if medication is stopped. Some scientists believe the best way to cure HIV is to smoke it out from its hiding place.
VGTI Florida believes it might have found that hiding spot: two subsets of memory T-cells, a part of the body's immune system. The virus uses the body's natural defense system as a way to avoid the medication that successfully eliminates it from other parts of the body.
"Based on this research, we believe one possible method for eliminating HIV in the body is to use a combined approach," Dr. Rafick-Pierre Sékaly, scientific director of the lab, said in a statement. "We propose the use of medications that target viral replication of HIV throughout the body, in combination with drugs that prevent infected memory T-cells from dividing. We believe that by attacking the disease in these distinct two ways at once for an extended period of time, we can eliminate the reservoirs of HIV that currently persist within the human body, leaving an individual disease-free."
While there's still a long road ahead, and many breakthroughs heralded as potential cures have come and gone through the years, Sékaly is optimistic his research could lead to a cure.
Meanwhile, a new interactive HIV/AIDS atlas
shows 80 percent of HIV cases in America occur in just 20 percent of counties. Many of those counties have a significant minority population. Unsurprisingly, Miami-Dade County is one of them, with some of the highest rates of HIV infection in the nation.
About 1.1 million people in America are believed to carry HIV, with 56,000 new cases each year. About 20 percent of those infected do not know they are.