Science made history in 2007 when researchers were able to cure an infection of the HIV virus, which can lead to AIDS. They’ve tried to do it again since then but have failed until now. The New York Times reported on March 4, 2019 that scientists have finally seemed to have succeeded in duplicating their initial success, twelve years after the first time.

This is a major step forward that could have significant implications for the medical industry’s ability to cure HIV and prevent AIDS going forward.

How Was the HIV Cured?

Like the first success, this new case has resulted in long-term remission. This new patient is being called the “London patient” just as the first one was dubbed the “Berlin patient” until he was later revealed to be Timothy Ray Brown of Palm Springs, Calif.

Both successful cases happened when patients with both cancer and HIV were given bone-marrow transplants as treatment for the cancer. The unintended effect of the cancer treatment was that the transplant affected the HIV infection. In both cases, the donor had a mutation in CCR5, which is a protein found sitting on certain immune cells. Also, both patients took immunosuppressive drugs.

Nonetheless, this same method has been tried and failed many times since 2007. It was tried in numerous patients with both HIV and cancer, with results of the patients dying of cancer or experiencing a flare-up of the HIV virus. Twelve years later, this is only the second time a patient has stayed free of HIV for longer than one year after stopping anti-HIV drugs. These current findings will be published in the journal Nature and presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections.

How Could These Results Work in the Future?

While the bone-marrow transplants acted as the catalyst to remission in both of these patients, it’s not likely that this will be the recommended course of action to target HIV Instead, scientists can use what they learned from these cases to see if they can come up with a better treatment option.

At the moment, the current course of action, drugs that manage HIV infection and keep it under control, is preferable to bone-marrow transplantation, which can come with risk and long-term side effects.

What this result has done is show researchers that it’s possible to cure HIV infection. Experts in The New York Times report noted that a likely way forward is “rearming the body with immune cells similarly modified to resist HIV.”

STD testing can inform you of whether you have been infected with the HIV virus. Our standard HIV test can give you results two to three weeks after you were potentially exposed, while our HIV RNA early detection test speeds up the process with results six days after exposure and conclusive results nine to 11 days after exposure.