The latest news about the minimum time required to eradicate HIV made jaws drop in the mainstream media, though treatment wonks barely managed a “duh.” A study by Johns Hopkins University researchers bumps the original three-year guess of David Ho, MD, up a bit—to 60-plus years. That’s how long these scientists now believe infected resting CD4 cells can survive while providing a safe hiding place for HIV. Following 34 HIVers for two years, the Hopkins team used a new cell-sorting technique to periodically count the number of dormant, or “silent,” infected CD4 cells. The scientists found that the number remained dismayingly stable over time. And although the study reported finding hidden HIV in 32 of the 34, since publication, infected cells have been found in the other two. The unsurprising take-home message: Forget about curing HIV with current treatments alone.
August 1, 1999 • By Lark Lands, PhD