HIV is a sexually transmitted disease that stands for human immunodeficiency virus. The definition of a virus is an infectious agent that replicates itself inside the cells of living beings, which means that it has the ability to alter an individual’s genes.
Gene therapy is the insertion of genes into certain cells with the goal of combating or reversing hereditary or acquired diseases. The role of gene therapy in treating HIV is obviously a vital one, as HIV eventually leads to an incurable condition known as AIDS or autoimmune deficiency disorder. Scientists have been researching HIV gene therapy aggressively for years in order to cure what is quickly becoming a widespread American epidemic.
Fortunately, early March 2010 saw a critical breakthrough in terms of HIV research. Canadian and American researchers released a joint statement confirming that new drugs have been proven to combat HIV. The discovery of two new molecules (PD-1 and IL-10) and their role in aiding HIV-fighting cells (CD4/T-helper cells) has lead to the conclusion that blocking these toxic molecules can help restore immune response during infection.
“We believe that immunotherapies that target PD-1 and IL-10 should be part of the arsenal used to restore immune function in HIV-infected subjects,” says Rafick-Pierre Sekaly, lead author of the study. His statements provided inspiration for geneticists around the country looking for stable cures for the disease.
Regardless of how well-versed you are on current HIV treatment plans, this news has brought hope to the 32.9 million people worldwide who suffer from the condition. Those living in North America and Europe sometimes forget that nations like South Africa are currently being devastated by HIV, so the development of new gene therapies can mean life or death for these populations.
To reiterate what you already know, HIV can be spread in three ways: sexual contact, contact with blood, and mother-to-child transmission. The best way to prevent contracting HIV is to limit your number of sexual partners and to use a condom during penetration. Avoid sharing needles for tattoos or drug purposes and get tested for STDs regularly. Pregnant women are much less likely to pass STDs on to their children if they are being actively treated for the disease.
While scientists continue to make advancements in the field of gene therapy, as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Minimizing your risk of HIV infection is always a safe bet.