The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Turning Off HIV?

As more objections are raised concerning the HPV vaccine, I'm intrigued about news that scientist have found the "on/off" switch for HIV. I'm sure I'll get some of the science wrong, but they've discovered goes dormant by shutting off its genes and protein synthesis. The "switch" is a bit shaky, and won't stay in the "off" position. Now that they've found this mechanism, more research could reveal a way to keep it in the "off" position. That is, if nobody objects. Given that we now have CDC doctors opposing the HPV vaccine, I can only imagine the objections to "turning off HIV." After all, preventing yet another STD might encourage pre-marital sex (because everybody's abstaining now). And, it's not too far fetched to imagine someone saying "If God turned HIV 'on', who are we to turn it 'off'?" After all, turning it off might be against "God's will" to those those believe "he" had a purpose in turning it "on."

One Comment

  1. This actually opens up an entirely different possibility in HIV therapy: turning the virus back ON.

    That sounds like exactly what you don’t want, but in fact part of the problem in HIV infection is that there are always latent copies of the virus: viral genome copies inserted into the DNA of cells that are not actively producing virus particles. Those copies are pretty much immune to any protein-target-based therapy, so even when you get the viral titer down below measurable levels, you can still be certain that you *haven’t* eliminated the virus from the patient’s body. This is largely the reason why patients cannot stop HAART once their CD4 counts get back to normal.

    One of the long-running Big Questions in HIV medicine is how to get these latent copies to reveal themselves without provoking a dangerous rebound viraemia. Having identified the components of the system that enables latency, perhaps we can more effectively manipulate that process and find a real, final, permanent cure. (Don’t mind me, I used to work on HIV molecular biology.)