Stem-Cell Transplant Treats Patient with HIV

Since the first reported case of AIDS in 1980, doctors have searched for a cure or, at the very least, medication that would slow the spread of this disease.

Although in the last decade there have been many strides made in curbing the rate of HIV infection by 16 percent since 1999, there is still no proven cure that will work for all people infected.

Dr. Faria Farhat, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Howard University, has credited the correct combination of various medications in helping to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS, along with other variables.

“There are medication combinations that are able to suppress the virus to very low levels, reducing the risk of spreading the virus.” Dr. Farhat said.  “There have also been new drugs that can prevent multiplication of the virus, helping to stop patients from spreading it to others.”

The most hopeful breakthrough was evidence that a pill, Truvada, containing two antiretroviral drugs, Emtricitabine and Tenofovir, can prevent the disease if given to homosexual men not infected with the disease.

The Preexposure Prophylaxis Initiative was a study that included examining 2,499 homosexual men across the United States, Brazil, Peru, Thailand and South Africa.

The study found that if taken properly, this drug can be effective over 95 percent of the time.

However, the days of merely reducing the spread of the disease may be over.  On Dec. 13, 2010 a medical breakthrough emerged in Germany.

Timothy Ray Brown, also known as the “Berlin Patient,” an HIV-positive man who received a stem-cell transplant through bone marrow as treatment for Leukemia, has been cured of HIV.  After a series of subsequent test it was proven that he has no traces of the virus within his blood.

Even though this is a medical marvel, people within the medical community have not begun celebrating just yet.

“This is an isolated incident that requires a specific cell mutation in order for it to work. It is extremely difficult to induce a cell mutation,”  Consandre Romain, a third-year medical student at the Howard University Medical School, said. “You would have to find someone with the exact mutation in the cells, which isn’t possible for the millions of people with AIDS.”

This raises questions about the controversial topic of stem-cell research.  Many people believe that it is immoral to create, produce or destroy embryos, which has curtailed additional studies into whether stem cells could bring medical advances in diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Christopher Fadumiye, a third-year medical student, is a proponent for stem cell research, especially if it could mean a cure for AIDS.

“I seriously do not know if you can do something with cells to make a cure for AIDS, but if they found a cure through stem cells I am for it.”  Fadumiye said. “I feel stem cell research is the way to go. Politics and peoples religious beliefs are keeping it from taking off as it should.”

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