Notwithstanding overall gloom across the world essentially because no one appears to have a magic formula for deeply failing global capitalism, there appears to be something to cheer about. Eggheads from a number of British, Spanish, Dutch and Singaporean research centres, with the lead author as Ravindra K. Gupta, an affiliate with the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, and University College London would later today in the United States be presenting details of how they came about a cure for HIV through stem cell plant. Already published in the journal Nature, the elaboration would be taking place at the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle, United States.
Although the scientists involved are cautioning against taking it as cure for HIV at last, it is still the big news, coming ten years after the first person to be effectively ‘cured’ of HIV. That is Timothy Ray Brown whose cure came through being subjected to what Quartz Online, for example, calls an intensive round of chemotherapy and radiation and two bone marrow transplants. Brown who became known as the ‘Berlin patient’ in medicine has remained cured but scientists were saying that result could not be generalized as to say there is now a cure for HIV. The second person has not taken antiretroviral since 2017 and he is still fine.
It is against that background that this news of a second cure from stem cell transplant is making the headlines. It is unimaginable when such would be affordable by the millions suffering from HIV in low income countries, especially in Africa but the seeming confirmatory signal from this cure makes good news for aggregate humanity.
And so, even as this news does not mean a HIV vaccine or ‘panadol’ exists now, it points to the possibility that some people are working and they are moving towards such a possibility even as extraordinarily complicated as the virus in question is. How soon that happens is a different question.
There is a paradox that many readers might not miss. All the researchers are from the least affected parts of the world, with none from any health/research institution in Africa where HIV has wrecked the most havoc in the past four decades. It is true the Gupta lab where Prof Gupta, the lead author of the essay in question, is also exists at the Africa Health Research Institute in Durban, South Africa but the institute is pan outpost of the faculty at the University College London.
The big question is when would a HIV vaccine or tablets be available from medical science? Is it so difficult or are some interests delaying it?
There might be no better capture of the message of this cure than what Kate Sheridan, the General Assignment Reporter of Quartz quotes Dr. Keith Jerome as saying. That is the researcher at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center for whom it is a question of, “Now there’s not one, but two people that others living with HIV can look toward for encouragement”. That makes the question of whether there is now a cure for HIV a yes and no sort of answer. Just yet!