Antiretroviral therapy does a great job knocking down HIV in the body, look where it has gotten us! However, it’s not perfect and is not globally accessible with large segments of patients even in developed countries like the U.S. not receiving adequate therapy.
I have been a big proponent of antiretroviral therapy, even though it took me 15 years to finally construct a regimen that got me to undetectable virus levels. But the drugs never restored my T cells to normal.
After taking the drugs for so many years I have become tired of taking twice-daily dosing. I find myself missing doses. While my doctor and I are trying to construct a once-a-day regimen, it may become impossible for me with my particular viral strains.
I enrolled in a gene therapy trial for people who were stable on therapy but had never achieved higher T cells counts. After one infusion of a new technology called zinc-finger nuclease developed by Sangamo, I was able to double my T cells and they have remained that way for five years. But that therapy targeted adult T cells, not the stem cells of the current trial and as a result I have had to remain on antiviral therapy.
My outcome is great but with current research the hope is that scientists can even cure HIV so that no virus remains in the body and patients can stop antiviral meds. I remain hopeful that someday I will no longer have to be reminded that I have AIDS with my twice-daily dose, and be cured.
People with HIV deserve a cure. Despite effective antiretroviral therapy we live with a “persistent” virus that continues to affect our immune systems and may affect the aging process, significantly reducing life spans.
I am 58 years old and I worry that despite my current good health, complications related to viral persistence that are today killing people with HIV, may very well be my demise.