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HIV/AIDS Blog Central

Is It Time to Celebrate the "Cure"?

By Ibrahim

December 29, 2010

If we analyze the Google usage of any newly diagnosed HIV-positive person, chances are 90 percent of his search history will reflect the phrase "HIV cure." The idea of waking up one day and finding out that there is a cure to your HIV that could replace your daily pills with a once-and-forever treatment is a dream to every Poz person in the world.

When we discuss the issue of HIV cure, we must keep in mind that it is not only a discussion of seeking better options to replace the current effective treatment system. A cure is not related only to people living in the northern industrial sphere who enjoy the privilege of accessing effective treatment and merely suffer from the side effects of the long-term dependency on them. A cure is in fact the ultimate solution to the problem of AIDS, which is crippling many developing countries in Africa, Asia and even in South America and Eastern Europe -- a situation that is still devastating their growth and human development plans; a cure must be conceptualized within this important frame.

However, the fact remains that until recently, most of those who work in the medical field were heavily influenced by the weight of what seemed to be a legendary ability of this virus to overcome a "cure." Years of disappointment diverted the international community and the donors' attention to focus more on providing and improving current treatment than on wasting energy and resources on what many saw at that time a Sci-Fi goal of HIV cure.

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Recently, in Berlin, German hematologist Dr. Gero Hutter broke into pieces this legendary reputation of HIV as the undefeatable virus.

As some of you know, HIV entry into CD4 cells requires interaction with a receptor in the cell. This receptor functions as the arm that is ready to shake hands with the invader; this arm is generally either CCR5 or CXCR4. If these arms are missing, no one will be welcoming HIV to his new home. In the past attempts to find a cure, the focus was on the virus itself, and scientists overlooked the fact that the body might be much friendlier to our attempts than the virus, a theory proven right in Berlin.

An American HIV-positive patient, after stopping treatment, witnessed no replicating of HIV. This was a proof that this patient was "functionally" cured, and the legend of the incurable disease has become history.

Of course, it was not as simple as this. The patient had to undergo a transplantation to replace his CD4 cells with new cheap ones from IKEA that lacked the betraying arms which act as receptors to the virus (sorry I can't stay serious for more than 10 lines). Seriously, this type of faithful CD4 exists in a small portion of lucky people. Prevalence is in the range of 1 to 3 percent among white Caucasians. The process could be seen as replacing the immune system with a superman immune system -- an operation that is risky and difficult in many ways. It is not simply going to the Doctor and saying that you want an immune system that is resistant to STDs as you are planning to go wild over the weekend.

Now the part that really interests me ... is how the American patient feels now? Waking up from this ordeal to find out that he not only survived leukemia, but also became HIV negative again, what changes occurred in his behavior? How does he view the world from now on? Being Poz is an identity ... and to lose it would have an impact similar to the one you have when you first acquire this identity. It is not a headache that you wake up from and feel happy that it is not punching your head anymore; HIV is a virus that changes your entire interaction with others and with your body. For example, how would any one of us change his sexual behavior if he passed through the same process of being cured and turning HIV negative again? How would a man change knowing that not wrapping it is not fatal anymore? Would he plan a gangbang party over the weekend to celebrate the new situation ... or would he go to church/mosque shouting "I shall never have sex again, Lord be my witness!"

All these questions are still pending answers; but till we get these answers, the case of our American pal who was cured from HIV should send another important message to the folks at home. He was treated and cured in Germany and even became known as the "Berlin patient," without spending a fortune. And he participated in this medical breakthrough simply because he resided there. Those who argued against the universal health care in the U.S. and painted red anyone who argued for it, claiming its evil socialism, it's time for them to get some red color on their cheeks -- blushing with embarrassment that this medical victory is being achieved in a country where health care is universal. Not one German complained that now an American immigrant is abusing the health care system in Germany and getting cured from HIV with the money of German taxpayers.

The lesson to be learned by scientists (I love it when I throw lessons at everyone as if I am the greatest teacher of all! :), humbly, is: Now is the time to think out of the same box we were confined in for the last decades. This is the time to try new approaches. It is time to establish a fact that within the last five years we witnessed more than one good breakthrough related to HIV. Whether in Berlin or in Thailand, they all had revolutionary methods. It seems that the battle is getting closer to victory.

Now, I am not that idiot to say "Mission accomplished" when a battle is still in the beginning ... But I will certainly say: It's time to celebrate a good beginning of our march towards a cure from many directions; it is the beginning of the end of HIV. It's time to get back the trust of the donors that a cure is possible and is indeed the optimal solution to this pandemic which exhausted the world for many years. Thus, funding should pour in once again to support efforts seeking a cure ... and finally, it's time for me to wear my turban again and say: In Islam we are taught, "God never created an illness without creating its treatment." it's the balance of nature and a call to mankind to seek medications, treatment AND A CURE.

Salam

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See Also
The First Man to Be Cured of AIDS: An Update on the Amazing Story -- This Month in HIV
Timothy Brown: The Other Side of the Cure
Thoughts on the Berlin Patient and a Cure for HIV/AIDS
Tentative HIV "Cure" Presents a Guarded Sense of Hope
I'm Not Cured Yet
Eliminating HIV/AIDS: How We'll Get to Zero
Can HIV Infection Be Cured?

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Sarah (NY state) Wed., Jul. 27, 2011 at 11:08 am EDT
I'm just a nobody who reached this via a link in a news story about the Berlin patient. My hope is that this disease will be curable one day, I believe in the brilliance of the men and women who work in the field. In the meantime, my best to you.
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Comment by: Dave (NJ) Mon., Jan. 3, 2011 at 8:47 pm EST
Ibrahim, your interpretation and explanations are marvelous! I read your post at a time when I was feeling particulary low and you made me not only laugh, but made me hopeful with your explanation. Great post! Thank you! I hope and pray that there is a paradigm shift in the way scientists continue to search for a cure.
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Comment by: Ibrahim (NY) Mon., Jan. 3, 2011 at 9:52 pm EST
Dave,
Thanks for the prayers and thanks for letting me know that you laughed, I strongly believe both are so important in healing anything...
Scientists are searching for a cure , lets hope they find it ... so we can celebrate it together !


Comment by: JB (NYC) Mon., Jan. 3, 2011 at 1:07 pm EST
I highly doubt there will ever be a cure. Scientist should be working on a more hopeful route which is a vaccine. A cure could never be possible but a vaccine is most defenitly possible.
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: Ibrahim (NY) Mon., Jan. 3, 2011 at 9:54 pm EST
You highly doubt , but are you sure? I will count on the 5% of your remaining possibility ... or is it more than 5%? let me know?
Comment by: David (San Diego) Wed., Jan. 5, 2011 at 2:21 am EST
Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Scientists have been wasting funds for nearly three decades seeking out a vaccine for HIV. It receives the lion's share of federal research money because we're certain it'll pay off in the end. We fawn over every test tube antibody miracle and solicit tens of thousands of HIV- gay men to experiment on, only to fail repeatedly. Meanwhile, we've found success in so many other areas, from antiretroviral therapy to this infeasible though legitimate cure. We've done this with relatively little US federal investment. The vaccine model is flawed. When I see people say "a cure will never be achieved, but a vaccine is possible", I wonder what their malfunction is. Screw your vaccine. Long live the cure and the millions of pozzies who pray for it.
Comment by: JB (NYC) Wed., Jan. 5, 2011 at 7:44 am EST
Ibrahim, it is not about percentage it is about the fastest way to save lives, spending time and money on something that most likely will never be possible (a cure) since viruses have shown over and over again that you CANNOT cure them, as opposed to a vaccine which has shown over and over again can obtained.
Comment by: Paul (San Antonio) Sat., Jan. 8, 2011 at 6:57 pm EST
"viruses have shown over and over again that you cannot cure them". Don't we do just that with HCV and ribvarin?
Comment by: Lisa (Phoenix) Mon., Jan. 10, 2011 at 4:19 am EST
JB, wow man, am I glad you weren't the one in charge of curing Syphilis, Gonorhea and other diseases back in their day.


Comment by: Carles (Barcelona, Spain) Mon., Jan. 3, 2011 at 7:40 am EST
Great comment, sad that many US citizens are brain-washed with the "America, land of the free" that politics have been spreading across the country. Just wait few years and let's wait a possible US default and then you'll see that not just universal healthcare is not possible in the US but also many other public services will be removed, of course, US will keep beeing a "free" country.

There's nothing bad with capitalism if it's played with mind, but also socialism is good if it's played with mind, a mixture of both can be amazing as we can see in China, that despite many work like slaves, the country has brought out the poverty millions of people while growing and also helping the western countries, and by the way, they also have public health system. And the US? how many people has become poor in the last four years?

About the HIV, I'm sure the cure or something like semi-cure will be found soon. More like a treatment once a week that affects the body rather than the virus. After all, all we know better is our own body, I guess, so we should make some kind of modification to our body and then let's see what happen. Something like VRX496.
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Comment by: Ibrahim (NY) Mon., Jan. 3, 2011 at 9:57 pm EST
Carles,
America has both of everything , just like anything in the world..day and night.. good and bad...
I share your hopes that a vaccine will be found soon.. and I stay firm by my position that Universal Health Care is a basic Human Rights enlisted in all Human Rights Declarations... That makes me an Obama fan I guess, who is by the way an American, so as I told you America has some great side in it after all ..
Thanks my friend
Comment by: Harvett (East Cleveland, OH) Fri., Jul. 22, 2011 at 8:30 pm EDT

I agree with you, I believe that you can heal yourself from any disease, eventhough no one wants to become infected. Many people in the US are brain washed, you are right on the money.


Comment by: Chad (Johannesburg, RSA) Mon., Jan. 3, 2011 at 2:58 am EST
Nice words. A little humour never hurt anyone and, in most cases, actually heals them.
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Comment by: Ibrahim (NY) Mon., Jan. 3, 2011 at 9:58 pm EST
Thank you my friend ... I hope it made you smile :))


Comment by: D (Dublin, Ireland ) Sun., Jan. 2, 2011 at 6:59 am EST
Ibrahiam, I really like the last paragraph, but do you think ka cure is in sight? I hope so but tend to be cyncial when it comes to such stories. I suppose all we can do is await in hope and in the mean time thoes of us lucky enough to have access to HAART should be thankful. I read recently cant rememebr where that 95% of HIV+ do not have access to meds. In the 21st C this is just unacceptable and a disgrace to mankind of all religions. We should be so embarressed that we have allowed this to happen and this must surely be rectified before any hope of a cure is realised?
I hope you and yours have a very healthy and happy 2011!
D
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: Ibrahim (NY) Mon., Jan. 3, 2011 at 10:00 pm EST
Hope is real... and it is sad indeed that many have no access to Meds in the world of today... my hope is born in the eyes of those who dont have access to Meds.. their hope in a cure makes me thing it will happen...Happy 2011


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A Poz Salam


Ibrahim

Ibrahim

I'm Ibrahim, a 35-year-old professional Muslim man from the Middle East, living in the US. I want to fulfill my big dreams while holding strongly to my culture. My new identity as HIV positive changed my life in a strong way that I am still trying to understand and deal with. By sharing my experience, I'm trying to help myself and others in similar situations to find some peace -- and working on bringing the good change I believe every human must bring to this world. In my attempt to introduce TheBody.com's readers to my part of the world, I won't be taking you far -- I'll start right here, in the US.


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