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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Scanning electron micrograph of HIV-1 budding from a cultured lymphocyte.

Early detection key to HIV remission

by Abigail Thorpe
Apr 24, 2014

A key agent in fighting HIV is early diagnosis and early, prolonged antiretroviral therapy, said Dr. Richard D’Aquila, director of the Northwestern University HIV Translational Research Center.

“People treated the earliest and the longest” had the best chance for remission, said Asier Sáez-Cirión of the Institut Pasteur.

They joined other doctors and researchers shed a ray of hope on the HIV and AIDS epidemic during Thursday’s HIV Cure Research workshop at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Experts from all over the world gathered to present the latest strategies and research for the prevention and cure of HIV. They opened the floor to public questions and discussion on the battle to eliminate the virus.

The workshop featured a session with Timothy Ray Brown, the first person to be cured of HIV.

Brown inspired and touched attendees with his story of fighting HIV and leukemia. “I was the first person in the world cured of HIV, I know in my heart I will not be the last,” he said.

In Chicago and elsewhere, HIV diagnosis is most prevalent among black, male homosexuals. This disparity in race is also reflected in age. Some 80 percent of diagnosis occurs among males 20-29 years old, while the 20-24 year age group is the only group experiencing growth in HIV diagnosis, according to Nikhil Prachand of the Chicago Department of Public Health.

“Individual behavior is not driving this epidemic,” said Northwestern behavioral science professor Brian Mustanski in referring to the disparity in race. This disparity amongst those testing positive to HIV in Chicago is a result of differences in characteristics of partners and network.

“Network variables need to be included in research and analysis,” said Dr. John Schneider from the University of Chicago.

Mustanski presented the idea of an HIV “syndemic,” demonstrating how drug use, sexual risk taking, alcohol use, and anxiety or depression all contributes to the risk for HIV.

“These epidemics are interrelated, and you need to understand all of them in order to understand the epidemic,” Mustanksi said.

The workshop also addressed prevention of HIV through the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, medication that can help prevent the contraction of HIV.

Elimination and the cure have to work together, emphasized Schneider. In order to be prescribed PrEP, patients must be tested for HIV, which can help lead to early detection. “Testing is key to everything,” said Sybil Hosek of Stroger Hospital.