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Experts at Arab Health reveal they are closer to finding a cure for HIV

  • With 38.4 million people living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and 1.5 million new infections in 2021, the HIV pandemic remains a major global problem

  • However, promising HIV cure breakthroughs include latency reversal, immunotherapy and gene therapy

  • World’s leading expert from the International Aids Society (IAS) discussed the progress in finding a cure for HIV at the Healthcare Transformation Talks at Arab Health 2023

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 1 February 2023: Promising new breakthrough treatments and potential cures for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), including non-pill antiretroviral therapy (ART), broadly neutralising antibodies, immunotherapy and gene therapy, were discussed at the Healthcare Transformation Talks at Arab Health 2023, the Middle East’s largest healthcare exhibition and congress.

Visitors at Arab Health, which runs until 2 February at the Dubai World Trade Centre, had the opportunity to discover exciting new updates in moving closer to understanding how to treat HIV in the long term, with the hopes of eventually finding a cure.

With 38.4 million people living with HIV and 1.5 million new infections in 2021, the HIV pandemic remains a major global problem. Although a 2022 UNAIDS report shows a 30% decline in infections in the decade since 2010, regions including the Middle East & North Africa, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia have seen infection rates are increasing due to limited access to prevention services and limited access to ART.

With 70% of people with HIV globally receiving effective ART in 2021, the advances in treatment modalities have been remarkable. Today, patients only take a single daily tablet, and last year, we saw the introduction of the first non-pill long-acting treatment where patients receive just six injections a year to stop the transmission of the virus. While the current landscape for HIV treatment is characterised by excellent daily treatment with ART and long-acting ART, in the future, long-acting treatment will involve broadly neutralising antibodies.

According to Professor Sharon Lewin, Director, Doherty Institute, Melbourne, Australia and President of the International AIDS Society (IAS), who addressed the audience at the Healthcare Transformation Talks: “Although a cure for HIV is extremely rare, it is indeed possible. With Single Cell Technologies transforming our understanding of HIV latency (the clinically latent infection stage, also referred to as asymptomatic HIV infection), the current strategies for achieving an HIV cure include latency reversal, immunotherapy and gene therapy.

Lewin added: “While we are unsure when a cure will be available, we expect that the first approach to achieve HIV remission will be with combination immune therapy and an ex vivo cure with gene or cellular therapy. Ultimately, an in vivo cure is what we are after, and a single-shot cure for everyone with HIV remains a long way off, but it is where we are headed.”

Professor Lewin concluded that whatever is being done scientifically to cure HIV must be scalable and accessible in the regions most affected by the virus.

Also on the agenda at the Healthcare Transformation Talks, attendees heard insights on the power of precision medicine for population genome programmes, the future of the UAE’s healthcare, how technology can help protect clinicians from medication errors, the world’s first pig heart transplantation in human, and the re-imagination of women's health.

Ross Williams, Exhibition Director for Informa Markets, said: “Arab Health continues to play a central role in bringing together a collective of global visionaries who are making valuable evolutions in the healthcare industry, delivering the latest insights, discoveries, and future predictions. With innovation dissolving traditional healthcare boundaries and emerging technologies accelerating the pace of transformation, we are excited to look towards a future where prevention and well-being play a central role.”

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