World AIDS Day is marked on 1 December each year as an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
The United Kingdom is now the second leading producer of HIV/AIDS research in the world, according to new data published last week. Imperial College London was also revealed as one of the top three UK institutions publishing work in this field.
With researchers from the College leading and taking part in research and trials across the globe, take a look back at some of the most significant developments from the past year.
HIV remission achieved in second patient
In March, a case report published in Nature documented that a second person had experienced sustained remission from HIV-1 after ceasing treatment. This came ten years after the first such case, known as the ‘Berlin Patient.’
Both patients were treated with stem cell transplants from donors carrying a genetic mutation that prevents expression of an HIV receptor CCR5.
At the time Professor Eduardo Olavarria, study author, said: “While it is too early to say with certainty that our patient is now cured of HIV, the apparent success of haematopoietic stem cell transplantation offers hope in the search for a long-awaited cure for HIV/AIDS.”
‘Test and Treat’ reduces new HIV infections by a third in African communities
New HIV infections in southern Africa could be reduced substantially by offering entire communities voluntary HIV testing, and immediately referring those who test positive for HIV treatment in line with local guidelines, according to research that was presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle, USA, in March.
“The idea behind our study was if most people living with HIV know their HIV status and take treatment, the risk of passing the virus on to their partners and children will be greatly reduced.” – Professor Sarah Fidler, study author.
EAVI2020 Announces Start of New HIV Vaccine Trial
April saw the European AIDS Vaccine Initiative (EAVI2020) begin a new clinical trial aiming to develop a protective vaccine against HIV. It is the first trial to assess how different protein combinations influence the development of protective antibodies against the virus.
“We anticipate that the current trial will provide important insight into the ultimate development of a protective vaccine against HIV”, said Professor Robin Shattock, who is leading the project.
Microbiome’s link to HIV infection risk to be investigated in new $2m study
The $2 million project, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, will be undertaken over a five-year period as part of a collaboration led by the University of Manitoba, Imperial College London and the IrsiCaixa AIDS Research Institute.
"This consortium represents a unique opportunity to assess the effect of the microbiome components on the efficacy of HIV prevention strategies including antiretrovirals and vaccines" – Dr Carolina Herrera, Co-Principal Investigator.
UNAIDS HIV targets will be missed among gay men in Africa
Despite improvements in HIV testing among men who have sex with men in Africa, many are missing out on HIV treatment. This was the finding of research published in October which analysed data from 75 independent studies involving 44,993 MSM across 28 African countries, between 2004 and 2018.
The team found that levels of HIV testing and HIV status awareness among MSM in Africa were lower in countries with more severe anti-LGBT legislation. For example, a larger proportion of MSM had received an HIV test where there was more protective and progressive legislation, and fewer or no LGBT-related arrests, the analysis revealed.
Flu shot can provide effective immunity for people living with HIV
People who are being treated for HIV can gain effective protection against seasonal flu with the influenza vaccine, new findings confirmed in November.
Since people living with HIV can have an impaired immune system and may be at higher risk of serious illness from flu, they are recommended to get the seasonal influenza vaccine every year. However, prior to the new study it was unclear how well the vaccine protected people with HIV taking antiretroviral therapy.
“Our study shows equivalent flu vaccine responses in people living with HIV and in healthcare workers, and indicates that restoration of vaccine-induced immunity is possible” said Dr Katrina Pollock, who led the study.
Article text (excluding photos or graphics) © Imperial College London.
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