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A Miracle Cure Against HIV

Context:

There is considerable excitement in the world of medicine after scientists reported that a woman living with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and administered an experimental treatment is likely ‘cured’. Only three people so far are known to have been cured of HIV.

Relevance:

GS II- Health

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. What is Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)?
  2. About the recent treatment
  3. What is the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in India?

What is Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)?

  • HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus.
  • It harms your immune system by destroying a type of white blood cell that helps your body fight infection.
  • This puts you at risk for serious infections and certain cancers.

AIDS

  • AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
  • It is the final stage of infection with HIV.
  • It happens when the body’s immune system is badly damaged because of the virus. Not everyone with HIV develops AIDS.
HIV can spread in different ways:
  • Through unprotected sex with a person with HIV. This is the most common way that it spreads.
  • By sharing drug needles
  • Through contact with the blood of a person with HIV
  • From mother to baby during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding
Symptoms of HIV/AIDS
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Rash
  • Night sweats
  • Muscle aches
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Mouth ulcers
Antiretroviral therapy (ART):
  • It can make HIV infection a manageable chronic condition.
  • It also reduces the risk of spreading the virus to others.
  • Most people with HIV live long and healthy lives if they get and stay on ART.

About the recent treatment:

  • At a Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, Colorado, United States researchers described the case of a 60-year-old African American woman who was diagnosed with an HIV infection in 2013 was started on the standard HIV treatment regimen of anti-retroviral treatment (ART) therapy consisting of tenofovir, emtricitabine and raltegravir.
  • She was also later diagnosed with leukemia in 2017
  • In that year she received cord blood, or embryonic stem cells, from a donor with a rare mutation that naturally blocks the HIV virus from infecting cells.
  • She was also given blood stem cells, or adult stem cells, from a relative.
  • The adult stem cells boosted the patient’s immunity and possibly helped the cord blood cells fully integrate with the lady’s immune system.
  • A little over three years after the transplant, the lady discontinued the ART and more than 14 months down, her doctors report that she has no sign of HIV in her blood and also has no detectable antibodies to the virus.
  • Embryonic stem cells are potentially able to grow into any kind of cell and hence their appeal as therapy, though there is no explanation for why this mode of treatment appeared to be more effective.
  • This treatment IS NOT the long-sought cure for AIDS.

Stem cell therapy:

  • It is a cumbersome exercise and barely accessible to most HIV patients in the world.
  • Moreover, this requires stem cells from that rare group of individuals with the beneficial mutation.
  • Anti-retroviral therapy, through the years, has now ensured that HIV/AIDS isn’t always a death sentence and many with access to proper treatment have lifespans comparable to those without HIV.
  • A vaccine for HIV or a drug that eliminates the virus is still elusive and would be the long sought ‘cure’ for HIV/AIDS.

What is the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in India?

  • As per the India HIV Estimation 2019 report, the estimated adult (15 to 49 years) HIV prevalence trend has been declining in India since the epidemic’s peak in the year 2000 and has been stabilising in recent years.
  •  In 2019, HIV prevalence among adult males (15–49 years) was estimated at 0.24% and among adult females at 0.20% of the population.
  • There were 23.48 lakh Indians living with HIV in 2019.
  • Maharashtra had the maximum at 3.96 lakh followed by Andhra Pradesh (3.14 lakh) and Karnataka.
  • India’s National Aids Control Organisation says that ART is “freely available” to all those who require and there are deputed centres across the country where they can be availed from.

-Source: The Hindu

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October 2022
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