Finding a Cure for HIV
Finding a cure for HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS, is exciting cutting edge research. Professor Joep Lange at the University of Amsterdam initiated the NOVA study to find a functional cure for HIV.
The goal of the NOVA Study is to determine how starting antiretroviral treatment (ART) within 24 hours of diagnosis helps some patients experiencing acute HIV infection achieve control of their HIV. When this works it means the difference between having to take drugs for a few years versus taking them for a lifetime.
The challenge is to find people who have been recently infected by HIV. In the USA, one in five people living with HIV do not know their HIV status1 while in the Netherlands, this is almost one in three2. Those who have been infected recently may or may not have flu-like symptoms that might lead them to seek medical care.
In order to evaluate strategies for a functional cure, the first step is to create awareness about the symptoms of acute infection. When people in the early stages of HIV infection come forward for testing and treatment is started immediately, the virus has less of a chance. HIV damages the immune system and finds a home for itself in reservoirs in the body where it can hide out. If we can prevent this, people can control their HIV infection without drugs.
Recruiting people experiencing acute HIV infection requires close collaboration between family doctors, clinics for sexually transmitted infections, HIV treatment centres, community organisations, and HIV researchers.
The NOVA functional cure study is part of a concerted effort that brings together all these partners to determine whether a 'seek, test, and treat' strategy for people experiencing acute HIV infection will result in a functional cure for HIV. What we learn in Amsterdam has the potential to have a huge impact around the world. Not only would a successful result mean better quality of life for people living with HIV, it would reduce HIV transmission, helping slow the HIV epidemic. That is because people who have recently acquired HIV are very infectious and are much more likely to transmit HIV infection to other people.
You can contribute to finding a cure for HIV by donating to the NOVA study. All funds raised go directly to the project.
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For more information about The Nova Study, please contact AIGHD:
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2. Bezemer, D. et al. 27 years of the HIV epidemic amongst men having sex with men in the Netherlands: an in depth mathematical model-based analysis. Epidemics 2, 66–79 (2010).