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Still no cure for HIV and Aids – not even ‘gene therapy’

IN SHORT: Scientists announced important developments in the search for a cure for HIV in March 2024. But promises on social media of a cure using gene therapy are made by quack doctors and should be ignored.

HIV can be cured with gene therapy. That’s the false claim circulating on Facebook in the southern African country of Zambia since late March 2024.

“HIV CURE GENE THERAPY. DR.MICHAEL MWEYA IS HERE FOR YOU,” reads one version of the claim, with a WhatsApp contact number.

“HIV CURE. You can end HIV stigma by using Gene therapy,” reads another.

Another supposedly explains the “cure”, before giving a WhatsApp number:

Our medicine introduces new and modified genes into cells which make them resistant to the virus. This makes an AAV9 vector containing a genomic payload of HIV-1 specific CRISPR Cas9gRNA editing transgene that is delivered through transduction of cells. This is the only certified final hiv cure worldwide.

The claim can also be seen here, here, here and here.

Human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, is an infection that, if left untreated, causes the disease acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or Aids.

Zambia has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in Africa. In 2022, according to World Health Organization estimates, about 10.82% of the population aged between 15 and 49 were HIV-positive.

There is still no cure for HIV, although it can be managed with antiretroviral medicine.

So where does the false claim come from?

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Gene editing experiment a promising step in search for HIV cure

On 19 March 2024, scientists at the Amsterdam University Medical Centre in the Netherlands announced that they had successfully removed all traces of HIV from a culture of immune cells in a laboratory. 

This was achieved using  Crispr gene editing technology.

“These findings represent a pivotal advancement towards designing a cure strategy,” the researchers said.

But they added: “While these preliminary findings are very encouraging, it is premature to declare that there is a functional HIV cure on the horizon.”

The experiment was in isolated cells, not a human body. While it holds promise for a possible way to eventually end the infection, it is not a cure.

News of the experiment was widely covered by the Zambian media, as seen here, here, here, here and here.

Facebook and WhatsApp offers of a cure for HIV using “gene therapy” are made by scammers and should be ignored.

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