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Stem Cell Research Leads Scientists to a Potential Cure for HIV
© by Jennifer McLeod writing as jenjen0703, all rights reserved.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
A major health threat that has raised great awareness for over 40 years is the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS. Until recently, HIV has had no known cure.
Scientists may be close to finding that cure.
AIDS was first clinically diagnosed in the United States in 1981 but did not adopt the name until 1982. Scientists were finding the disease was most common in heroin addicts, homosexuals, hemophiliacs, and Haitians, also referred to as the 4H. Ongoing research revealed that AIDS was not limited to just the gay community, and it is later suggested that HIV originated from primates in Africa, which was transferred to humans through a process called zoonosis.
Stem Cell Research
Scientists have been performing stem cell research using blood from the umbilical cords of newborn babies. Through stem cell research, the genetic CCR5 was discovered and proved to offer immunity to HIV. If the person only carries one copy of the gene, they have some immunity, but people who carried two copies of it (one from each parent), then their immunity is much stronger.
There have been many people tested for these rare genetic mutations to the research and testing could move farther in the fight to cure HIV and AIDS.
Meet Timothy Brown
Timothy Brown, also known as "The Berlin Patient", age 46, was diagnosed with HIV in 1995. Later, he was also diagnosed with leukemia. In 2007, while Brown was being treated for the leukemia, he received a bone marrow stem cell transplant from someone who was resistant to the HIV virus because of the previously mentioned genetic mutation.
Since Brown received his transplant, there has been no evidence of HIV in his body.
Does this mean scientists have found what they needed to cure HIV in others who have contracted it? Is this the breakthrough that society has been waiting for?
34 million people are affected by HIV worldwide. Even though there are medications available to prevent the onset of AIDS after contracting HIV, it must still be like a death sentence to some people who have been diagnosed with it.
Prevent the Spread of HIV
While those infected with HIV are waiting for a cure to be developed and available to them, there are many ways to prevent the spread of HIV.
- Do not use drugs, especially intravenous types. Intravenous drug users should not share needles.
- Avoid having sex or wear a condom. Those with HIV are required, by law, to forewarn their partners before engaging in sexual acts with them.
- If pregnant and infected with HIV, taking ARV's during pregnancy and delivery lowers the chance of passing it to the infant, who will also need to be given AZT after the birth.
- New mothers with HIV should not breastfeed their babies, as this can cause the transfer of HIV.
- Protect cuts and open sores from coming into contact with blood from someone else.
For more information on HIV, visit AIDS.org.