for Veterans and the Public
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is it true that someone has been cured of HIV?
It is true that a few people appear to have been cured of HIV infection.
Two people have undergone bone-marrow transplants for cancer that left them with immune systems resistant to the HIV virus. More recently, a study has shown that a woman who was infected with HIV in 1992 may be the first person cured of the virus without a bone-marrow transplant. Additionally, 63 people in that study controlled the infection without drugs; HIV was sequestered in the body in such a way that it could not reproduce. The findings suggest that these people may have achieved a "functional cure." It is important to remember that bone marrow transplant is incredible intensive, expensive, risky, and is neither recommended nor feasible to give to non-leukemia patients. Stem-cell transplantation is not a solution for the 36 million people living with HIV (PLWH) worldwide. It is also important to remember that only 1 percent of PLWH can keep the virus in check without antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. While a widespread cure is not yet available, these studies have reinvigorated the research and advocacy communities to find new strategies for an HIV cure.
While ARV drugs are very effective in preventing the HIV virus from actively reproducing, current HIV treatment is not able to eliminate the virus. Many different approaches are being investigated as possible avenues towards a cure, including vaccines to prevent or control the virus, medicines to change the immune system's response to HIV, medicines to "purge" the dormant HIV from the body, and genetic therapy, where a patient's white cells are altered to prevent the virus from attaching to cells. We don't know if these strategies will work or, if they are successful, when a cure would be available, but it is heartening that at least a few people have been cured and that scientific efforts to find a cure have intensified.