World’s First Woman Cured of HIV After Stem Cell Transplant

Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is still one of the world’s most serious public health challenges. Caused by HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), it spreads through blood. The virus mainly attacks the white blood cells and weakens the immune system of the human body.

If HIV is not treated, it can lead to an advanced stage of HIV infection: AIDS. The weak immune system becomes susceptible to opportunistic infections—which can lead to death.

According to the WHO (World Health Organization), there are about 37.9 million people globally living with HIV in 2018.

In 2020, we all know many people died from the global pandemic Coronavirus, but apart from this, do you know that thousands of people suffered from HIV.

As per WHO data, “680 000 [480 000−1.0 million] people died of HIV-related illnesses worldwide in 2020.” 

Though HIV is incurable, recently, a woman has been cured of this virus completely! 

How’s even that possible?

Woman cured of HIV


Yes, a Woman cured of HIV! 

A middle-aged woman of mixed race who is currently a US resident has become the first woman and the third person in the world to be cured of HIV to date!

She is treated with a stem cell transplant which was donated by a person with natural resistance to the virus that causes AIDS.

In a presentation at Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in the US on Tuesday, the researchers confirmed that “It’s been 14 months, and she is now free from the virus!”   

Despite the cessation of antiretroviral therapy (ART), the woman hasn’t reported any detectable levels of HIV to date. 

According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, “The woman was actually a part of a study that began in 2015 designed to monitor outcomes of 25 people with HIV in the U.S. who underwent a transplant.”

In 2013, she was diagnosed with HIV, and ever since, she had been on antiretroviral drugs. In March 2017, she was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukaemia. Later in the year, around August, she was treated with a mutation-containing cord blood transplant, also known as Cold Cord Treatment. 

Marshall Glesby, an infectious diseases expert at Weill Cornell Medicine, who was also a part of the team, told in an interview with New York Times, “The transplant from the relative is like a bridge that got her through to the point of the cord blood being able to take over,”

Woman cured of HIV


However, that’s not the first case of this. Other than this woman, two other people, both men, are also known to have been cured of HIV. The first person is known as the “Berlin patient,” who lived virus-free for 12 years. However, later in September 2020, he died of leukaemia. Another person was from the UK, who had received a bone-marrow transplant, and since 2016 he is also living virus-free. 

With Antiretroviral therapy (ART), people with HIV can live a near-normal life. However, it’s still not widely available to the public.  

According to UNAIDS, “37.7 million people were living with HIV in 2020 worldwide. Only 28.2 million of them had access to antiretroviral therapy.”

With this new approach of stem transplant, researchers want to find a cure in the form of a vaccine or drug that can kick the virus out of the body. According to researchers, if the success rates increase with this new approach, this treatment will be available to more people.

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