While there is currently no cure for HIV, advances in treatment have made it possible for people with HIV to live long and healthy lives. We also now have more tools to halt the epidemic through treatment, prevention and education. Still, a cure would expedite this goal and facilitate the global eradication of HIV/AIDS. For this reason, NIAID invests in basic and clinical research with the ultimate goal of developing a safe, affordable and scalable cure for HIV and AIDS. Watch a video to learn about the approaches NIAID is taking to achieve a cure for HIV.
Many people involved in HIV cure research acknowledge that, much like the best treatments for HIV, an HIV cure may be made up of a combination of agents and approaches. Because of the nature of HIV infection, a cure for HIV can also be defined in two ways: treatment-free remission and viral eradication.
Many people living with HIV who adhere to regular antiretroviral therapy (ART) maintain undetectable levels of HIV in their blood. While these individuals have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting the virus and are less likely to experience most symptoms and complications of HIV infection, latent virus remains in certain cells known collectively as the HIV reservoir. If people with ART-suppressed HIV stop taking their medication, virus from the reservoir rebounds to high levels. Sustained ART-free remission, sometimes called a functional cure, would allow a person living with HIV to keep latent virus suppressed without daily medication. Read more about NIAID-supported research toward sustained ART-free remission.
In a viral eradication cure scenario, HIV would not only be undetectable in the blood but also would be completely absent from an individual’s body. Viral eradication research is generally expected to require two experimental strategies to be used in conjunction with one another. The first step is to prompt latent HIV to replicate so that the infected cell expresses HIV proteins. The second step involves enhancing the immune system of the person living with HIV or employing other agents to recognize and kill the cells expressing HIV proteins, thereby clearing the latent virus from the body. Read more about NIAID research efforts to achieve viral eradication.