amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

HIV Cure Research Gains Momentum


HIV cure research is rapidly advancing on several fronts and for the first time was the subject of a two-day symposium preceding the International AIDS Conference (see page 2). In 2012, amfAR awarded US$2.3 million in cure-focused research grants, including US$1.3 million to five teams working within the amfAR Research Consortium on HIV Eradication (ARCHE).One of the teams is led by Dr. Timothy Henrich of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Following stem-cell transplants to treat cancer, two of Dr. Henrich’s HIV-positive patients now show no sign of HIV in their bodies by standard laboratory tests. Dr. Henrich plans to withdraw these patients from their antiretroviral therapy (ART) under controlled conditions to determine whether they have indeed been cured of HIV.  

 kevin208amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost and Dr. Jintanat Ananworanich of the Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Centre. 

Another grant was awarded to a team led by Dr. Deborah Persaud of Johns Hopkins University in collaboration with Dr. Katherine Luzuriaga of the University of Massachusetts. They hope to determine if it is possible to cure HIV infection with ART alone in children in whom ART had been started soon after birth and continued for an average of 15 years. At a think tank initiated by TREAT Asia and organized by amfAR in June, Dr. Persaud had reported on a group of five such children with no detectable HIV and who remain HIV antibody-negative. With amfAR support, Drs. Persaud and Luzuriaga will use highly sophisticated tests to search for active and latent virus in their patients.  

To explore whether starting ART during acute infection could lead to a functional cure in adults, the Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Centre and the U.S. Military HIV Research Program are collaborating on a study in Thailand. The study’s 75 participants, mainly young men who have sex with men  (MSM), will remain on either three- or five-drug combination ART for three to four years.  

Because these people were identified so early, and got on treatment so fast, the reservoir size of HIV in their bodies is extremely low—lower than any studies that have been published to date,” said Dr. Jintanat Ananworanich, the Thai collaborator for the U.S. Army on this study and a principal investigator within the TREAT Asia network. “They also have preserved immunity, and have the highest chance of achieving a functional cure.”