Is Curing HIV Like Curing Cancer? Probably, And It Will Be As Difficult
HIV, also known as Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is a virus that is contracted through sexual contact or bodily fluids. It reduces the body’s ability to defend against illnesses. In other words, it weakens the immune system which is responsible for defending our bodies against all sorts of attacks. This virus is a dangerous one that doctors have been having trouble combating for years now.
We now have a treatment process in place to help those with HIV to maintain a normal lifestyle but it does not cure HIV. Instead, the current treatment option leaves the virus still present in the body. Ceasing treatment will cause symptoms to return. The time frame in which treatment is started also determines how effective the treatment will be.
Because of how difficult it has been to cure, HIV has been compared to curing cancer. This is for good reason and here is why.
One of the main reasons that HIV is like cancer is that it is invasive and can hide even if it appears to have been cured. In 2013, 3 patients with HIV were found to be no longer positive for the virus. Within months, all patients who tested negative for HIV had the virus return. What was heralded as a potential breakthrough was shattered.
It gets more detailed than that. HIV works by causing cells to misbehave. Cancer does the same thing. The major difference is how the problem with the cells is caused. With HIV they are infected, or high jacked, while cancer is a misbehavior in the cells.
Both cancer and HIV cells are capable of a trick called de-differentiation. The cells appear to revert to an earlier stage. When they revert to an earlier stage, the disease or virus is completely undetectable to both the body and lab tests. Cancer and HIV cells do this when they are targeted by certain treatments.
With both cancer and HIV, doctors have been fighting them for years. Every time it is believed that a cure has been found, the disease/virus has been able to find a way back.
HIV and Cancer have differences though. It is more than just the fact that one is a disease and one is a virus. HIV is relatively new. It was first noted as being discovered in 1983. Medical experts and scientists believe that cancer has been around since the beginning of time. This is partially due to the fact that cancer is a misbehavior of the cells and not an infection. That is the other main difference between the two.
Another difference is the social stigma that has come with AIDS/HIV for years. When AIDS was first discovered it was considered to be a disease that only affected gay men which delayed the full attention it should have received at that time. Cancer has always been considered something that was only a sickness. Far less of a stigma has been applied to it. While there is considered to be less of a stigma present, there are still people out there that stigmatize it.
The fact that HIV can spread from person to person also makes a difference. While cancer only hides in people who develop it, HIV has spread around the world. HIV/AIDS has been affecting certain populations for years. Some countries are especially threatened by HIV/AIDS related issues. Countries with lower quality medical care are more at risk as the disease goes untreated and undiagnosed in many of these locations.
The differences between the two do not stop them from being very similar in many ways. Both diseases have been eluding doctors for years and that is part of what draws them together. Also, HIV patients are at risk for certain types of cancer, like Leukemia, due to their reduced immune systems.
Cancer and HIV are both difficult conditions to treat. Throughout the next few years, the two will be a heavy focus of medical research but curing both is going to take a lot of work from specialists in the field. As technology improves the likelihood we will be able to eradicate both goes up. We will see what the future holds.
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