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The Emerging Race to Cure HIV Infections

Science  13 May 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6031, pp. 784-789
DOI: 10.1126/science.332.6031.784

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Summary

Four years after Timothy Ray Brown received bone-marrow transplants to fight leukemia, the most sophisticated labs in the world cannot find any trace in his body of the HIV that had infected him for 12 years. Brown is the only living human, a growing consensus contends, to be cured. Brown's treatment clearly does not offer a road map for many others. After all, the expensive, complex, and risky transplant only made sense because Brown was dying from leukemia. Nor is it clear exactly which components of the extensive transplant regimen cleared the virus from his body. But Brown's case has moved the much-ridiculed idea of curing HIV onto the most scientifically solid ground it has yet occupied, say leading AIDS researchers. Brown's case showed for the first time that it is possible to rid the body of the virus—even from the minuscule reservoirs where the virus can hide out for years, evading both the immune system and antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). His astonishing turnaround also raised hopes that other, more practical drugs and immune system modulators might find and destroy every last bit of virus—or at least reduce it to such low levels that people no longer need ARVs.

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