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Early Treatment Functionally Cures HIV Positive Patients

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New evidence suggests that HIV positive patients who are diagnosed early enough may be "functionally cured" of the virus using anti-retroviral drugs. Using a sample of 14 patients, scientists in France swiftly administered the drugs to the patients who were diagnosed in the early stages of HIV but then stopped the treatment. Testing revealed that even 7 years after the initial use of the drugs, the patients had no evidence of the virus rebounding.

French scientists speculate that the early treatment of the virus prevents what they call "viral reservoirs" from developing. In addition, early treatment of the virus may prevent further mutation and preserves the immune system of the infected patient. However, a functional cure does not mean the virus is entirely cured. What it does mean is that the virus is reduced to such low levels in the body that it is kept away without further treatment, although it is still detectable.

There are currently 34 million people around the world that are infected with HIV and most will have to take anti-retroviral drugs the rest of their lives to keep the virus at bay. These drugs are generally very effective, but have side effects and have a huge impact on healthcare costs. The news of a functional cure comes on the heels of other recent reports that an HIV-positive baby girl in Mississippi was functionally cured after receiving very early treatment.