Connect with us
Advertise With Us


Finding Cure For Dreaded HIV/AIDS



The fact that scientists are yet to discover cure for the dreaded virus HIV/AIDS more than 30 years since it was discovered has continued to send jitters down the spine of human beings. ODIRI UCHENUNU-IBEH, in this write-up, examines the journey so far in the search for a cure

Imagine a day when scientists would come up with an announcement that they have found cure to HIV! That day would be a great day for everybody in the world because the virus has claimed the lives of not just people living in Sub Saharan Africa, but that of every other person infected in the world.

That is also the day Adeola Kayode is dreaming about. Though presently testing negative, even though she is living with the virus, she still wants to see a day when HIV can be cured completely.

Kayode told LEADERSHIP Sunday that, “With my adherence to my Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ARV) Drugs, I am living my normal life. People only know that I am an HIV patient when I tell them. Thank God for the ARV drugs that have not only made me healthy, but have also suppressed the virus, in that when I go for test, it always comes out negative.

“Nevertheless, I would love to see a day when there is a cure to the virus. I always read journals to know the progress made in finding cure to the virus. While I am grateful to God that I am alive and healthy, I always pray that God should help scientists to come up with a cure and I am keeping hope alive. That is my dream, that is my prayer.”

When asked how she felt when she first heard of the professor of Veterinary Medicine and Virology at the Michael Okpara University, Umudike, Umuahia, Dr. Maduike Ezeibe’s announcement of a discovery of a treatment and cure of the dreaded HIV infection,  she said she was so happy, but was later disappointed when the government came up to counter his claims.

“We are yet to hear from government what they discovered from their investigation concerning Ezeibe’s claim of finding a cure to HIV. I really wish government can look into his research work and assist him,” she added.

Like Kayode, everybody would want to see a day when HIV is no longer news, because there is a cure. With scientists all over the world trying to come up with different research/discovery in the fight against the dreaded virus, the future is quite bright for a cure.

Since the late 1980s, researchers have attempted to cure HIV infection. In 2008, a major breakthrough occurred. Doctors in Berlin appeared to have cured an HIV-positive man, who was suffering from leukemia, of both cancer and HIV.

The “Berlin patient” had been taking ART for several years prior to his cancer treatment and received chemotherapy, radiation and transplants of stem cells. The donor of the stem cells had a rare mutation (called a delta-32 mutation by researchers) that resulted in his cells having no CCR5 co-receptors.

This made the cells resistant to HIV infection. After intensive chemotherapy and radiation, ART was withheld and the stem cells were transplanted and took hold in his bone marrow, helping to create his new immune system that helped to cure the HIV.

Clinicians are however trying to replicate the success. Researchers are experimenting with gene-editing techniques to alter the DNA of an individual’s immune cells. This can be done by introducing genetic changes to deactivate the gene that gives rise to the CCR5 coreceptor, thus robbing HIV of a means of latching on to immune cells.

The modified cells are then grown outside the body and ultimately reinfused into the person’s body. The aim is to spawn a population of immune cells that are resistant to infection. Hopefully, with the help of new technology, there is hope that a cure would emerge someday.

With the Pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP, hope was again raised that the cure for HIV is imminent. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), PrEP is the use of an antiretroviral medication to prevent the acquisition of HIV infection by uninfected persons.

PrEP may either be taken orally, using an antiretroviral drug available for treatment of HIV infection (tenofovir plus emtricitabine), or topically as a vaginal gel containing tenofovir. The efficacy of oral PrEP has been shown in four randomized control trials and is high when the drug is used as directed. The efficacy of gel has been shown in one trial and is moderate.

As of September 2015, WHO recommends that people at substantial risk of HIV infection should be offered PrEP as an additional prevention choice, as part of comprehensive prevention.

Another breakthrough in finding HIV cure, which the federal government of Nigeria is passionate about is the effort to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

While the world await a cure for HIV, stakeholders in the Nigerian health sector have urged Nigerians to know their HIV status.

Director General, National Agency for the Control Of AIDS (NACA), Dr. Sani Aliyu, said knowing one’s status is the step to eliminating the virus.

As the world commemorates world AIDS day, Aliyu said it is an opportunity to remind the public of the importance of testing for HIV. He said, “Having a HIV test is an essential step towards accessing life-saving HIV treatment.”

Another issue raised by NACA DG is the challenge faced by Nigeria in ending Mother-to-child transmission of the virus. He said the country still faces the challenge of ending mother-to-child transmission of the virus because about 50 per cent of pregnant women do not go for antenatal care.

Addressing the issue,   Aliyu, said the agency focus would be given to the rural areas as the government was already working to upgrade the primary healthcare centres.    

Aliyu said that the challenge could only be addressed when there was increased knowledge on the need to know their status which must be done at the start of antenatal care. He said, “Based on the results we have from several surveys, we know that the major challenge is about bringing the mothers to antenatal care.

“I am pleased that this year’s world AIDS Day, theme is about knowing one’s status which means that everyone should and must know their HIV status. People don’t really need to go to the hospital for testing again as there are self testing kits which can be used by oneself and at the comfort of their homes.

“That alone will increase testing and I hope most pregnant women would make use of the kits so that those that test positive to the virus can begin treatment to avoid its transmission. These babies are innocent and they do not deserve to be brought into the world to suffer for what they know nothing about.”

According to the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, the situation of mother-to-child transmission of the virus is worrisome and requires collective action of all stakeholders, with the support of global partners to correct the statistics.

Prof. Adewole said a road map on implementation of the National Treatment and Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV/AIDS was launched recently, to give proper guidance and direction on how best to offer treatment to HIV patients in Nigeria and also, protect unborn children from contacting the virus through a mother living with the virus.



%d bloggers like this: