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Experts and stakeholders explore new methods for HIVAIDS treatment

  A red ribbon used for HIV awareness. 

Experts and stakeholders in HIV/AIDS treatment and management are exploring a new method called Analytical Treatment Interruption (ATI) in combating the disease which has been a global challenge for almost four decades now.

The method involves temporarily halting treatment involving antiretrovirals to assess potential cure interventions, balancing risks and benefits for participants and their partners.

The 2nd Consensus Workshop on the same, organised by the Sub-Saharan African Network for TB/HIV Research Excellence (SANTHE); and co-hosted by the U.S. Military HIV Research Program (MHRP), brought together experts from diverse backgrounds to shape the future of HIV cure research.

Speaking at Trademark Hotel where the conference was held, the Director for Basic and Translational Science at the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) in Durban, South Africa who doubles up as the Programme Director for SANTHE, Thumbi Ndung'u, emphasised the significance of finding a cure for HIV.

“Scientists are developing interventions that may help cure HIV because lifelong antiretroviral therapy poses challenges for many individuals,” Ndung'u explains.

Ndung'u stressed the importance of African leadership in this endeavour, given the high prevalence of HIV on the continent. The proposed updates to the ATI Consensus Guideline aim to broaden trial participation criteria and enhance safety measures.

“Anyone living with HIV who is willing to participate should be allowed, regardless of past CD4 count," Ndung'u emphasized. The guidelines prioritise participant safety and community involvement, reflecting diverse perspectives and needs.

Meanwhile, the Director of the Doherty Institute, who is also a Professor of Medicine at the University of Melbourne in Australia, Sharon Lewin, underscored the workshop's objectives.

“The purpose is to determine if someone can safely stop their antiviral drugs when they have HIV,” Professor Lewin explained.

 Collaboration with African partners is crucial, given the region's significant HIV burden and unique challenges.

Pediatric inclusion in ATI trials was emphasised by Professor Lewin, highlighting children's potential insights and the importance of finding ways to discontinue treatment safely. The updated guidelines will serve as a roadmap for safe and high-quality research, balancing scientific efforts with ethical considerations, but only when fully developed and effected.

 “We wanted not just expert opinions but also voices from the community and persons living with HIV,” Ndung'u emphasised.

Professor Lewin was fast to add that the world is inching closer to the cure for HIV/AIDS.

 “While the journey towards a cure is still in its early stages, every step forward brings us closer to that goal,” she declared.

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