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Person cured of HIV, still no viable cure for mass production

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HIV/AIDS discussion

Posted: Wednesday, March 6, 2019. 3:41 pm CST.

By BBN Staff: The recent news that someone was cured of HIV in London, still does not mean that large groups of people will be cured in the near future.

The successful cure made international headlines on Monday when it was published in a medical journal that a patient had been HIV free for over 18 months after doctors performed a stem cell transplant on him in an attempt to cure Hodgkin lymphoma, which is a type of cancer.

Doctors found a donor with a gene mutation that confers natural resistance to HIV. About 1 percent of people descended from northern Europeans have inherited the mutation from both parents and are immune to most HIV. The donor had this double copy of the mutation. Researchers noted that transplants are dangerous and have failed in other patients. They’re also impractical to try to cure the millions already infected.

The treatment is expected to have even less impact in Belize than it does globally, according to sources in health circles who noted that Belize is nowhere near ready to perform those types of procedures.

However, HIV is still a pertinent national issue with challenges emerging at various levels of the national response. In January 2019 the Ministry of Health released HIV epidemiology data, which dated back to 2017, noting that several administrative issues delayed the report its originally intended 2018 release date. The Ministry had said that it was striving to release the 2018 figures by May 2019.

The 2017 data showed that the Belize Health Information system captured of 30,435 HIV tests conducted in 2017, alongside some 6,512 tests reported by non-BHIS sources such as the Belize Family Life Association, outreach programs including Agriculture and Trade Show, Regional Testing Day and World AIDS Day activities. There were a total of 223 newly reported infections.

The ministry, along with other partners within the national HIV response such as the National AIDS Commission noted that the number of positive tests were alarming, not so much because the numbers were high but that they reflected little to no change in frequency despite
years of education campaigns and advocacy.  

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