Danish scientists say they are expecting new results that have left them "on the brink" of “finding a mass distributable and affordable cure to HIV."
Not just to keep it at bay, but to cure it for good.
Clinical trials are testing a “novel strategy” in which the HIV virus is stripped from DNA and destroyed permanently by the immune system.
The move would represent a dramatic step forward in the attempt to find a cure for the virus, which causes AIDS, which has killed millions worldwide.
Scientists are currently conducting human trials on their treatment, in the hope of proving that it is effective. It has already been found to work in lab tests.
The technique involves releasing the HIV virus from “reservoirs” it forms inside DNA, bringing it to the surface of the cells, where it can be combated.
Once it comes to the surface, the body’s natural immune system can kill the virus through being boosted by a “vaccine" administered by doctors.
Dr Ole Sogaard, a senior researcher at the Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark and part of the research team, says the early signs are “promising."
“I am almost certain that we will be successful in releasing the reservoirs of HIV," he said, believing this could even lead to a cure within months.
“The challenge will be getting the immune system to recognize the virus and destroy it. This depends on the strength and sensitivity of individual immune systems.”
Fifteen patients are currently taking part in the trials, and if any of them are found to have successfully been cured of HIV, the “cure” will be tested on a wider scale.
An immune system booster will be added to aid the efforts.
Sogaard stressed that a cure is not the same as a preventative vaccine, and that raising awareness remains of paramount importance in combating HIV.
With modern HIV treatment, the virus can be held off and a patient can live an almost normal life, even into old age, with limited side effects.
However, if medication is stopped, HIV reservoirs become active and start to produce more of the virus, meaning symptoms can reappear within weeks.
Finding a cure would free a patient from the need to take continuous HIV medication, and save health services untold billions of dollars worldwide.