May 16, 2013
Over the past several weeks some media outlets have grossly misinterpreted press releases and results from a clinical trial that occurred in Denmark. These media claimed that a team of Danish scientists stated that an HIV cure was imminent. Unfortunately, these incorrect internet news stories have unfairly raised hopes. Now, in an attempt to correct the misinterpretations of their data, the Danish scientists involved in that work have issued a very clear press release stating that, while their work has exciting potential, "we are not on the brink of an HIV cure."
The good news is that funding agencies in several high-income countries, including Canada, Australia, Denmark, France, the UK and the U.S., are planning or already funding different strategies to explore potential avenues that researchers may use one day in an attempt to cure HIV infection.
Bear in mind that such research is extremely complex, time-consuming and, depending on the protocol involved, potentially risky for volunteers. Indeed, attempting to cure HIV is an extremely challenging endeavor. Due to all of these factors, and in the absence of a lucky accident or breakthrough, it is not likely that there will be a simple, cheap and widely available cure within the next 10 years. Furthermore, Danish researchers recently predicted that it might take "many years" before a cure is finally ready.
During the coming decade, scientists hard at work trying to cure HIV need our encouragement because of the difficulty of this endeavour, and funding agencies need to demonstrate long-term commitment, as developing a safe, effective and simple-to-administer cure will take time.
There will be advances made on the path to a cure but, as with any other great bio-medical quest, there will likely be setbacks.
Due to the complex nature of HIV cure research, we encourage our readers to treat future media stories that claim to have news of an HIV cure with a healthy degree of skepticism. Furthermore, any claims of a cure need to be verified by other scientists and critically examined. When a cure is developed, CATIE will be sure to feature details about this on our website.
Teams of scientists in major Canadian research centres are hard at work trying to develop a cure for HIV. Initially such research involves cells and HIV, and possibly some animal experiments, and takes place only in the lab.
Canada's premier scientific funding agency, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) in collaboration with the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR) and the International AIDS Society is planning to fund research to cure HIV. This funding will hopefully encourage more scientists to join cure research and increase the sophistication and scale of such work.
As new discoveries are made, clinical trials to test ideas for trying to cure HIV will occur in the future. To find out more about HIV-related clinical trials, visit the CIHR Canadian HIV Trials Network and use these links:
In the meantime, find out more about some approaches to cure research that are planned, underway or completed.
An upcoming CATIE News story will focus on some aspects of Danish cure research.