Is There a Cure for HIV?

In the United States today, approximately 1.2 million people live with HIV, or the human immunodeficiency virus. This virus is the precursor to AIDS, which became an epidemic roughly three decades ago. At that time, the positive result of an HIV test meant death. Now, there are millions of people the world over who are living with the disease and remain unaware. For those who are infected, an estimated 37 million individuals, taking antiretroviral medication and receiving an early diagnosis can make a significant difference in their ability to live a normal life and to an average age of death.

Is There a Cure for HIV?

At this point, there is still not a cure for HIV. There has been one person in the history of this disease who was cured, and his case is recognized as the case of the Berlin Patient, Timothy Ray Brown. This occurred in 2008 and has proven that a cure is possible. Studies now focus on that, rather than discovering new facts about the disease as they were previously.

Current treatment helps control HIV and extends the individual's ability to live a long and healthy life despite their diagnosis. Medicines can help slow the growth of the virus and also stop its replication. As the viral load (the amount of virus in the blood) remains low, a test can be run to determine the levels and understand the virus as it affects that particular individual. Certain drug treatments attack the virus in different ways, and there are currently a variety of anti-HIV medications.

Why Isn't There an AIDS Vaccine Yet?

There is no available AIDS vaccine currently. This is because the cause of AIDS attacks the immune system and disrupts the body's natural ability to defend itself. This makes it difficult to make a vaccine to fight off the virus. Meanwhile, the virus attacks individual cells in the body and takes them over to make copies of itself, numbering in the thousands. This makes replication too quick for most vaccines to fight. It also infects the body's white blood cells, killing them off and leaving the immune system especially vulnerable.

Also, the copies that HIV makes of itself vary greatly, creating different strains within the body. This makes it impossible for the body's immune system to fight, weakening the immune system and leaving the body vulnerable to many other infections – which tend to be a death sentence for the HIV/AIDS sufferer.

What Should I Do Before There Is a Cure?

For those who fear they are at risk for HIV, getting tested is the best way to know for sure. Testing must be done more than once to clear you of the possibility of contracting HIV, with the tests spaced out over a period of time. Therefore, instead of focusing on is there a cure for HIV, you can focus on knowing if you have contracted the illness and what to do next.

Meanwhile, for those who have tested positive for HIV, it is necessary to start treatment immediately. In addition to treatment, the following tips can help you deal with the disease:

1. Find a Local HIV Healthcare Provider While You Feel Fine

When you start feeling sick is not the time to find someone to help you fight the illness. It is better to start fighting while you still feel no symptoms. A healthcare provider will monitor your health and help you to develop the appropriate treatment plan for you. They can also help you understand important aspects of HIV/AIDS treatment. Current recommendations for treatment with ART are for anyone with HIV. Finding a healthcare provider can be difficult, particularly if you do not have a regular doctor. Consider using the HIV Testing and Care Services Locator from the website to find a local provider for yourself.

2. Be Ready for That First Appointment

The first appointment when you have HIV will be filled with questions and a lot of information. Be prepared with a list of questions of your own. There are sample lists available, like one from the Department of Veterans Affairs if you need help. Using a list can help you stay organized when you feel overwhelmed.

3. Research Beforehand

There are certain websites online that can give a general idea of what it means to have HIV. Try reading about the disease on these sites before you go to that first appointment with a healthcare provider. You can then avoid asking questions like: is there a cure for HIV and focus on issues that can be addressed. Then, they can help clear up any issues you have with understanding. Also, the local library and some local testing centers may have printed materials you can read to better understand what you face.

4. Gather Your Support System

Now is not the time to push away friends and family. Having people that love and support you is very important with a disease like HIV. Reach out to the ones you love and find support. Contact community resources and professional organizations, consider attending a support group or going to counseling. You may not be ready to share your diagnosis at this point, and that is OK. For now, focus on having connections and interactions with other people. Don't be alone with such a scary diagnosis.

5. Consider Who You Want to Share the Diagnosis

One of the most difficult aspects of finding out you have HIV is facing the fact you need to let other people know. Then, you actually have to tell them about the diagnosis. First, remember telling people can be a gradual process. Also, there are professionals that can help you prepare and face this aspect of the illness. The most important people to tell now are healthcare providers and sexual partners – those directly affected by your diagnosis.

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