Given how much the phrase “HIV cure” has been thrown around, you might start to think that we actually have one.
We don’t. But we’re getting closer.
Over the past few years, a small — but growing — number of people appeared to have had active, living, reproducing HIV completely eliminated from their bodies. We say “appeared” because most of these individuals ultimately relapsed. However, there was (and for some, continues to be) a period of sustained remission that needs to be studied more.
This is uncharted territory, and researchers are still working hard to find ways to eradicate HIV or prolong the remission seen in some of these extraordinary cases. For that reason, we tend to refer to people with no sign of HIV in their bodies not as “cured,” but as “functionally cured.”
More recently, we’ve also referred to these cases as sustained “HIV remission,” whereby individuals can discontinue treatment without either developing HIV-associated morbidities or showing signs of progression to disease, while maintaining a very low viral load.
Here’s a quick look at the most solidly documented “functional HIV cure” or “HIV remission” cases we know of today.