A primary goal in the battle against HIV is to try to prevent transmission of HIV to uninfected partners of HIV+ individuals. In the clinical trial (NIAID HPTN 052) led by research chair Myron Cohen, M.D, researchers demonstrated treatment of healthier HIV+ individuals (those with CD4+ T cell counts of between 350- 550 cells/mm3 as opposed to those with cell counts of 250 cells/mm3 or an AIDS-related event) with antiretroviral therapy substantially reduced risk of viral transmission to uninfected partners. The study had been set to conclude in 2015, but the interim findings were clear that earlier treatment reduced transmission. Click here for more information on this study.
So far, the primary focus in HIV research has been to try to find vaccines and antiviral therapies that can prevent HIV infection and control viral load. Unfortunately, once infected, HIV hides out in the body and can indefinitely avoid being detected by the immune system. A consortium of 19 investigators, led by UNC and Dr. David Margolis, have just been awarded a 32 million dollar, five-year grant to investigate how to find and eradicate HIV from infected individuals. Three groups of researchers are being asked trying to understand how viral latency is maintained, where these reservoirs of infection are located, and how to make them visible to the immune system. Click here for more information from the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases.