Cure for HIV: Research on Stem Cell Transplant as HIV and AIDS Treatment
Facts and Figures
- 60 millions people have been infected since the epidemic started
- Approximately 30 Million have died from HIV
- In 2008 430,000 children were born with HIV
- 67% of HIV positive individuals are in the Sub Saharan Africa Region, 91% of new infections in children are located here
The mere mention of HIV and AIDS can send shivers down anyone’s spine. This is how dreadful HIV is as it can debilitate and truly affect the person’s life. To date, AIDS statistics show that more than 30 million have died due to the virus. For the past 30 years, the virus seems to be unstoppable. According to the United Nations, as much as 7,000 people are diagnosed as HIV positive every year.
The first drugs concocted by scientists in the 90’s gave hope to many HIV patients in that it made the disease more manageable. Unfortunately, the assortment of drugs being used for the treatment is extremely expensive. Developing the drugs to manage the disease can cost up to $13 billion. Suffice to say, the road to finding HIV treatment is costly. This raises concerns since the number of people infected keeps on growing. Much of these patients don’t have the means to pay for the exorbitant cost of the treatment.
When almost everyone has given up hope on finding an effective HIV treatment; here comes the “Berlin Patient”. His story has truly astonished the scientific community. Likewise, he has given back the hope to those afflicted HIV and AIDS.
Like many other patients, Timothy Ray Brown has exhausted all means to battle the virus. But in 2007, his trip to Berlin,Germanyhe received a bone marrow stem cell transplant. The procedure itself is unique as stem cell research and stem cell therapy is still in its infancy. But what makes this stem cell treatment even more remarkable is that the cells transplanted to him were from a person who is immune to the virus. Yes, there are those who are lucky enough to be unaffected by HIV (approximately 1% of Caucasians have this special gift).
According to his doctor, Gero Huetter, the virus in him is no longer replicating without having to take any medications. Although he is still recovering from some neurological side effects of the procedure, he is practically doing better - and that’s definitely an understatement.
Although stem cell research has made much progress, stem cell transplant is a highly risky procedure. Such procedure can kill the patient. But sometimes the risk is worth it when the circumstances are dire. On a more positive note, the procedure does open up new avenues for research into curing patients and not just managing the disease.
To date, there are 33.3 million people infected with the virus. This AIDS statistics will continue to grow as long as there is no viable HIV treatment. However, with this new procedure, new hope is given to HIV and AIDS patients all over the world.