World AIDS Day 2022: Is HIV cure attainable in our lifetime?
30 Nov, 2022
In the lead-up to #WorldAIDSDay2022, people wonder, is an HIV cure attainable in our lifetime?
Yes, we believe there are good reasons to be optimistic about a cure:
The advances in treatment
Better access to therapy
Early initiation of effective antiretroviral treatment
Increasing numbers of children living with HIV who are surviving into adolescence and beyond
Reported cases of people living with HIV with a viral reservoir to a level that allowed maintenance of remission even after treatment interruption.
That’s why we say, “the mission is remission”.
Unfortunately, only a small minority of patients achieve prolonged viral control after treatment interruption.
EPIICAL’s quest: How might we sustain long-term remission in children treated early for HIV?
EPIICAL is an HIV clinical and experimental platform implementing bold new strategies to obtain long-term viral remission in children treated early for HIV.
EPIICAL is well-positioned to optimize the management of children living with HIV and improve their quality of life.
1. By simultaneously leveraging care, clinical and basic science
2. By collaborating with researchers across the globe, focusing on the same quest.
And why children?
According to many studies, children are an ideal population to study novel therapeutic strategies for HIV remission, because:
Children and adolescents living with HIV have to remain in therapy for their whole life.
This increases their risk of experiencing drug toxicity, poor adherence to treatment and viral resistance. (Palma P. et al, J Virus Erad 2015).
Hence, a life changer is needed!
By setting up the EPIICAL Consortium, Penta has gathered a multidisciplinary group of researchers from different parts of the world for a common purpose. Their continued commitment is central to further HIV research and finding a cure.
These are some of the things EPIICAL is doing:
Catalysing a multidisciplinary, multicultural approach. Since 2016, EPIICAL researchers have worked collaboratively to develop and apply data to inform novel therapeutic strategies in children who have perinatally acquired HIV to reach remission of the virus.
Setting up cohorts of children living with HIV in Africa and Europe. These cohorts provide a deep insight into the viral reservoir, and immune response characteristics of children treated early.
Gathering further evidence of early therapy’s efficacy in reducing the virus in children’s blood. The high-quality data generated by the consortium is vital for improving the current understanding of HIV remission while paving the way to unravel the mechanisms behind viral remission.
Innovating the current methodology using technology. EPIICAL launched technological platforms to innovate the existing methodological approaches to HIV research by adding cutting-edge technologies, such as epigenetic studies, RNA sequencing, and evaluation of Humoral Immunity. These platforms are now available to the Penta ID Network for further application in future studies.
Conducting a social science program and implementing a retention strategy. Emerging data suggest that ART education is meeting caregivers’ needs, though access to more palatable medications is needed. Interventions directed to the mother-child dyad, such as addressing transmission guilt, enhancing parenting self-efficacy, assessing child development, and building on positive perceptions of motherhood may improve both.
Launching and managing HVRRICANE, the only ongoing study on HIV vaccine in children with perinatally-acquired HIV. This includes evaluating therapeutic vaccine effects on the child’s viral reservoir and immune response.
The knowledge gained from EPIICAL has the potential to:
Transform the lives of children living with HIV worldwide, as well as
Become applicable for the treatment of HIV in adults, particularly those who initiate early antiretroviral therapy.