More than 38 million people around the world are living with HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS. However, with numerous breakthroughs leading the way, this will hopefully change in the coming years.
GlaxoSmithKline, a British multinational pharmaceutical giant, is planning to begin human trials for an HIV cure as early as next summer, Bloomberg reports. This is a game-changing move that has the potential to free millions from the illness.
The company will start testing its latest treatment to make it possible to wake up the virus within people's immune cells. This therapy is meant to bring the virus out of hiding so that it can be targeted and defeated.
This approach has already been tested on nonhuman primates, where it was successful in getting the cells to identify the cells.
The epidemic's end on the horizon
After decades, HIV is no longer a death sentence: Medicines can help people with the disease live longer and healthier lives while reducing the risk of transmission. However, the stigma around it still persists, and as activities fight for better health education in school, scientists are also rushing to find a way to end the epidemic.
"If it works in humans, then the question will be how do we clear it away once we've induced it," explains Dr. Kimberly Smith, head of research & development at GSK's HIV health division ViiV Healthcare. "It's been a long battle against HIV and things are much better, people are living long lives. But, it's still a burden. It's still massively stigmatized. And so getting to a cure, we feel like it's within reach. Will we get to a cure in the 20, 30-year timeframe? I certainly hope so."
The pharmaceutical behemoth is already a prominent player in the HIV scene: It's currently responsible for around half of all the treatments, which have become more effective in recent years, given to people who have the virus. In fact, rather than taking daily tablets, one of its therapies is injected monthly, and the business is striving to extend these intervals even further, with the objective of giving patients injections every six months.
Meanwhile, a team of researchers in Japan developed a vaccine that was able to kill a type of HIV in macaques during an early trial, and it could start human testing within just five years. Also, Moderna also recently began human trials for their mRNA-based HIV vaccine, so there are many trials to be hopeful about.