The difficult fight against AIDS

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Still no cure for AIDS after 30 years

In 1983 a virus was first described that triggers immune deficiency HIV. French researchers Luc Montagnier and Françoise Barré-Sinouss were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2008 for discovering the HI virus. But to this day, despite intensive research, there is no cure for AIDS. More than 35 million people worldwide are affected by the immune deficiency. However, the number of new infections has decreased since 1997. According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the number in the group of men who maintained sexual contact with men has increased slightly in Germany since 2011.

So far no cure for HIV and AIDS is possible. The so-called human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is transmitted through contact with the body fluids blood, sperm, vaginal secretions, breast milk and cerebrospinal fluid. Infection with HIV is therefore much more difficult than, for example, with flu viruses, in which transmission via droplet infection is possible. Nevertheless, the spread of immunodeficiency has developed into a pandemic since the 1980s, affecting around 35 million people worldwide.

30 years ago, French researchers Luc Montagnier and Françoise Barré-Sinouss first described the HI virus, which, if left untreated, causes the immunodeficiency AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). The US scientist Robert Gallo made this discovery in parallel with the two French. On May 20, 1983, therefore, two articles of historical importance appeared in the scientific journal "Science". At that time, life-threatening immunodeficiency, the cause of which was previously unknown, was rampant, especially among homosexual men. The researchers independently recognized that the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was responsible for the puzzling disease. Since then, researchers from all over the world have been developing drugs for AIDS. So far there is no cure.

Antiretroviral Therapy for HIV and AIDS Nevertheless, science has made great strides in the field of AIDS research over the past 30 years. So-called antiretroviral drugs can prevent the outbreak of AIDS in most cases. However, if an HIV infection is not treated, the affected person's immune system is weakened so severely that it is very likely that AIDS will break out. This stage of the disease is characterized primarily by the occurrence of the so-called opportunistic infections caused by bacteria, fungi, viruses or parasites, by malignant tumors such as Kaposi's sarcoma and lymphatic cancer, HIV-related changes in the brain (HIV encephalopathy) and wasting Syndrome, diseases that can lead to the death of the person concerned.

If an HIV infection is treated in time, the outbreak of AIDS can usually be prevented. Antiretroviral drugs have been used successfully for HIV for some time, so that the life expectancy of those affected has increased significantly today. Although the combination of different active substances often means that the viral load in the blood of the sufferer can no longer be detected, antiretroviral therapy (ART) cannot bring about a definitive cure. However, the medication prevents the virus from multiplying and must therefore be taken for a lifetime by those affected.

With HIV often only late for the doctor According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), HIV is often only recognized very late or in some cases not at all, since many of those affected go to the doctor very late. An early diagnosis is particularly important to minimize the risk of further infections and to start an effective treatment. Of an estimated 3,400 new infections in 2012, almost half were so-called "late presenters", in whom the AIDS disease had already broken out or at least the immune system had already been severely weakened. However, the very late detection of HIV reduces the chances of success of antiretroviral therapy. Shame, repression or ignorance are often the cause of a late visit to the doctor. In many cases, HIV infection still means stigmatization in the work environment, but also among friends and family when the disease becomes known. In some cases, however, the symptoms, which include diarrhea, fever, weight loss and swelling of the lymph nodes, are not directly associated with HIV by doctors. Only an appropriate blood test can give definitive information about a possible HIV infection. (ag)

Image: Gerd Altmann /

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Video: How close are we to eradicating HIV? - Philip A. Chan


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