Have you ever heard about Carl Fox? If not, you’ve missed out on a very interesting story that made headlines recently.
To give you a quick backstory, Carl has been living with HIV for more than 35 years. At a certain point in time, his condition progressed from being HIV-p
Today, Carl is inspiring many by being a part of a trailblazer study that’s adopting a completely new approach to the management of HIV. In this experiment, researchers are using blood cell altering and modifications in order to keep the viral load of HIV-positive patients manageable without the need for a daily dose of an antiretroviral medication. And while it’s still too early to cheer, preliminary results have shown a lot of promise.
Controlling HIV without Antiretrovirals: Mission Possible?
It all began in January 2020.
That was the first time when Carl Fox was hooked up to a big medical machine, watching his blood being passed via an IV line to the body of the contraption. There, the machine eliminated some of the white blood cells required for the completion of the study before the blood went back to Carl.
Almost 12 months later, in December 2020, Carl had to complete another important part of the treatment protocol. At the time, he underwent a 10-hour-long chemotherapy medication infusion. A couple of days later, Carl’s white blood cells that were extracted previously got reintroduced into his body.
The story told by 9 WCPO focused on just Carl – one of the many people who participated in the double-blind, placebo controlled trial. The trailblazer experiment involved a total of 30 people and it’s a collaboration between University of California, Western Reserve University in Cleveland and the University of California – San Francisco.
Roughly split in half, some of the participants in the trial served as a control group while the others had their white blood cells genetically modified before being reintroduced into the patient’s bloodstream.
Following the procedure, Carl’s T-cell count went back to the normal range for a person who is not HIV-positive. In addition, his HIV viral load was declared undetectable. He will need to undergo testing over the coming two years to determine if his status changes in any way. While the preliminary outcomes are very promising, researchers will still need to track progress in the long run before declaring the cellular modification a complete success.
An Alternative Therapy Could Emerge
According to Carl, the side effects of the chemotherapy and the white blood cell treatment are a lot milder than some of the issues he’d experienced as an HIV-positive person.
He told interviewers that a little bit of hair loss was nothing to feel concerned about, especially considered the long-term possibilities for the management of HIV through white blood cell therapy.
So, how exactly does the prospective treatment work and why is it such a good idea?
University researchers altered the part of the white blood cell that the HIV virus usually hooks to. If the virus cannot attach itself to a host cell and start a replication process, the viral load in the patient’s body will remain very low. The manner in which this therapy works classifies it as one of the possible functional therapies for HIV and AIDS. Immunotherapy belongs to a similar category because it aims at functional changes relating to the manner in which the virus works.
A functional cure is very different from the antiretroviral medications that HIV-positive people need to take today.
Because it causes a specific alteration inside the body, a functional cure doesn’t have to be administered daily. This reduces the burden of keeping up with a medication schedule and can contribute to improvements in quality of life.
According to the researchers who designed the current study, it’s unrealistic to hope for a complete elimination of the HIV virus. Still, developing a functional cure that keeps viral replication under control would be good enough for the time being.
HIV Is Manageable!
Antiretroviral medications keep HIV manageable. The development of this class of drugs has significantly extended the lifespan of HIV-positive individuals. When the infection is identified early enough, someone with HIV can expect to have almost exactly the same lifespan as someone who is HIV-negative.
Still, in many parts of the world, antiretroviral medications remain difficult to obtain or they are expensive. This is the reason why some patients don’t stick to their prescription or find it difficult to manage their treatment.
Some of the medications also produce side effects. They increase the risk of osteoporosis and heart disease. So, while antiretroviral medicines are saving lives right now, health service providers are hoping to come up with something better and more effective in the future.
Right now, you should stick to recommended sexual health practices in order to prevent, identify and address threats as soon as possible.
In Singapore, you can count on reliable and confidential HIV testing in reputable STD Clinic like Shim Clinic. We offer quick testing options and consultations to help you accept responsibility for your sexual health and take better care of yourself.
If you’d like to learn more about HIV testing, the diagnostic process and treatment options, visit Shim Clinic during our working hours every day of the week. On top of providing a range of services aimed at the early identification of HIV, we can suggest combined screening panels for the purpose of pinpointing other common STD, as well.