Why there is still no Cure for AIDS

Due to the nature of HIV itself, I think there will never be a cure. HIV is a virus. It mutates with nearly every replication because the viral enzyme responsible for encoding new strands is not reliable. The strain of HIV can change over the course of an individual’s infection and as medications attack it. It is known that if a person is on HIV medications they can not miss a treatment or else it gives the virus time to mutate and adapt, thus needing a change in treatment regimen. HIV is now becoming resistant to the popular HAART treatment that was heralded as the end of AIDS so few years ago. Individuals are becoming infected with multiple strains that benefit from various host cells, needing a treatment that isn’t specific, but general. A cure would have to take into account every strain in every cell in every environmental context. That would be impossible.

Once HIV infects a cell it can lie dormant for decades. Any treatment that eliminates HIV from the body would have to be taken long enough, over the course of a lifetime, to get every viral particle. HIV is not like other common viruses, it has reservoirs in the immune system. When an individual harboring dormant HIV, even if active HIV was cleared by a medication years before, becomes ill with something else, the common cold even, those cells will turn on and HIV will be born again.

HIV isn’t the only virus like this. Chickenpox (varicella virus) can lie dormant in the basal root ganglia, nerve cells, and be reactivated under the right immune conditions to produce shingles. Hepatitis C is a chronic infection of the liver that can only be cured by a transplant. Depending on the type the individual is infected by, Herpes simplex reactivates into cold sores or genital lesions under the right host conditions.

There are conspiracy theories about the cure for AIDS being known by the medical community. There are many reasons that undercut this theory. First is the fact that the government and pharmaceutical industry spend millions of dollars each year on researching and treating the disease. A year ago the longest waiting list in the United States for treatment was in South Carolina. With 350 poor people awaiting government funded medicine the state already paid out $500,000 a year for treatments, one of the lowest cost programs in the nation. A cure would garner income rather than expenditures, especially since a cure would give a feeling of security to the populace and new infections would continue to occur such as happens with other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Secondly, current therapies do not always work. If the cure was based on the current means it would be effective for a small portion of those infected. And finally, HIV mutates at a very rapid rate, as I mentioned before. What would have worked ten years ago when the cure was supposedly found, it would not work today.

There is not yet a cure for HIV/AIDS because it is different from any other disease the medical community has had to fight. It uses the very cells the body has to defend itself and sleeps until it has the advantage. When it loses the upper-hand it mutates and becomes a new entity, unaffected by the previous challenge. Prevention is the only cure we will have.