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The blood samples for the PCR testing for HIV for infants are gathered at the local clinics and hospitals in Malawi.
© Karin Schermbrucker/UNICEF

Hong Kong Scientists Say 'Functional Cure' for HIV Is Within Reach

By Joanna Prisco

If you hear cheering in the distance, it could be that the medical community is cautiously celebrating a win.

Researchers at Hong Kong University’s AIDS Institute have identified a “functional cure” for the HIV virus, which may lead to an antibody for both prevention and treatment of AIDS, reported Reuters.

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Scientists led by Professor Chen Zhiwei announced this week that a new antibody tested on mice can help control the virus and eliminate infected cells, the Reuters report noted. The team’s findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, a leading biomedical journal.

A “functional cure” means that, with regular quarterly injections of the antibody, the virus level would remain so low in an infected person that it would be rendered undetectable in the body.

Such a drastic change in half-life would be much more manageable than enduring the daily treatment that many patients living with HIV must currently maintain, researchers said.

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While scientists are calling the antibody a breakthrough, it will likely remain unavailable in the immediate future.

“Governments are being very slow to implement programs here,” said Andrew Chidgey, chief executive of the group AIDS Concern in Hong Kong, in an interview with Reuters. “So just because a treatment becomes available, doesn’t mean that people will get it, or that it will have an impact.”

Chen’s team said they hope to bring the new treatment to clinical trials within three to five years.

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