Beginning in 1996, cocktails of anti-HIV drugs proved that they rescue people at death's door and stave off AIDS for decades. Despite initial hopes that the drugs might eradicate the virus from the body, it soon became clear that no one was cured because of stubborn reservoirs of cells infected with latent virus.
Today, an improved understanding of how HIV remains latent and new ideas about how to purge the reservoirs have led to the biggest push yet to cure people, including millions of new dollars being poured into the effort. And the field now knows that a cure is indeed possible because of an unusual stem cell transplant in one HIV-infected person with leukemia who no longer has any detectable virus in his body.
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Immunologist Anthony Fauci heads the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the world's leading funder of HIV/AIDS research. Fauci's own lab conducts cure-related studies, and NIAID recently has committed $13 million in new grant money available to academics to pursue this line of research.
Steven Deeks is a leading HIV/AIDS clinician and researcher based at the University of California, San Francisco and San Francisco General Hospital. He co-chairs a scientific working group on HIV cure research that is sponsored by the International AIDS Society.
Immunologist and molecular virologist David Margolis is at the forefront of HIV cure research. He led a pioneering clinical trial of valproic acid to purge HIV reservoirs and now is heading a team that is testing a similar drug, SAHA.