According to a study of more than 2,000 women, the rapid evolution of HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, is slowing its ability to cause AIDS. Read more from Reuters:
Scientists said the research suggests a less virulent HIV could be one of several factors contributing to a turning of the deadly pandemic, eventually leading to the end of AIDS. “Overall we are bringing down the ability of HIV to cause AIDS so quickly,” Philip Goulder, a professor at Oxford University who led the study, said in a telephone interview.
“But it would be overstating it to say HIV has lost its potency — it’s still a virus you wouldn’t want to have.” Some 35 million people currently have HIV and AIDS has killed around 40 million people since it began spreading 30 years ago.
But campaigners noted on Monday that for the first time in the epidemic’s history, the annual number of new HIV infections is lower than the number of HIV positive people being added to those receiving treatment, meaning a crucial tipping point has been reached in reducing deaths from AIDS. Goulder’s team conducted their study in Botswana and South Africa — two countries badly hit by AIDS — where they enrolled more than 2,000 women with HIV.
First they looked at whether the interaction between the body’s natural immune response and HIV leads to the virus becoming less virulent or able to cause disease. Previous research on HIV has shown that people with a gene known as HLA-B*57 can benefit from a protective effect against HIV and progress more slowly than usual to AIDS.