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  • Closing in on HIV: Findings From the 2019 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections

    Arguably the most important annual meeting related to the science of treating HIV, the 2019 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) highlighted advances in many aspects of HIV, including some insights on eradicating the virus.

    For example, eliminating HIV with a “test and treat” strategy was the focus of a very sizable study in Zambia and South Africa. The results presented at CROI suggested that universal testing for HIV—and treating those who test positive—could potentially reduce the number of new infections by 7% to 30%, depending on the treatment strategy. It is the biggest such “test and treat” study, with 1 million participants, and it aims to shed light on the best way to use treatment as a strategy to prevent the spread of HIV infection in communities, especially in areas with a high-disease burden such as in southern Africa.

    During the conference, researchers also shared results of the second-ever person to have perhaps been cured of HIV infection, as a side effect of treatment for blood cancer. The first instance of cure, reported 12 years ago at CROI, was after a person with HIV received a stem cell transplant for acute myeloid leukemia. The donor immune cells happened to have a mutation in the CCR5 receptor that made them immune to HIV infection.

    In the second case, a person with HIV and Hodgkin lymphoma also received HIV-resistant stem cell transplants. Since stopping antiretroviral treatment, the person has been in remission for 18 months. A third similar case was also reported at CROI, now 3.5 months into remission.

    Stem cell transplant is not yet feasible because of its high risk, but research on the potential role of the CCR5 receptor continues.

    Many other advances were reported at CROI, including research on the care and treatment of women living with HIV. Detailed reporting of key data from the conference is available from multiple educational sources, such as Clinical Care Options’ Conference Coverage.