HIV, shown in yellow, infecting a human T cell. (Seth Pincus, Elizabeth Fischer and Austin Athman/NIH)

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor

Paul Volberding is a UCSF oncologist who treated San Francisco’s first HIV patients in the early 1980s.

“The patients were, in many cases, blind and demented and had cancer and had infections in their brains causing pressure and headaches,” says Volberding. “People now can’t imagine it, it was so bad.”

Volberding says for years, HIV infection was a rapid death sentence. But in the 35 years since the epidemic began—thanks to sophisticated anti-retrovirals—it’s become a chronic illness that people can live with for decades.

Today, on the eve of World AIDS Day, UCSF is scheduled to announce that it’s receiving a $20 million grant to find a cure for AIDS over the next five years. It’s part of a $100 million effort by the American Foundation for AIDS Research or amfAR, to fund the most promising research that could lead to curing AIDS.

Not long ago this might have sounded unbelievable.

In 1981 Marcus Conant, MD (left) and Paul Volberding, MD (right) discuss Kaposi's Sarcoma, a disease that became one of the original AIDS-defining illnesses.
In 1981, Dr. Marcus Conant (left) and Dr. Paul Volberding (right) discuss Kaposi’s Sarcoma, which became one of the original AIDS-defining illnesses. (UCSF)

“I think it would have felt a lot like a moonshot, maybe five or six years ago,” Volberding says.

But today, Volberding’s lab and others in San Francisco are working for that moonshot: to develop treatments over the next several years that can drive the viral load down low enough that the body’s own immune system can control or eliminate it.

“If it can be done anywhere, it can be done here,” he says. “It’s a really exciting moment.”

The Problem With Treatment

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved zidovudine or AZT in 1987; it was the first antiretroviral medication to treat HIV.

By 1996, drug “cocktails” to treat HIV became the standard of care for most patients. These highly active anti-retroviral therapies (HAART) helped manage the patient’s viral load, maintained function of the immune system and prevented infections that could become fatal.

After HAART became widespread, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a marked reduction in HIV-related deaths.

But these medications have side effects.

“Antiretrovirals are not a panacea,” says amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost, who’s based at the organization’s headquarters in New York.

A Kenneth Cole/amfAR ad from 1993 when 234,225 died of AIDS.
A Kenneth Cole/amfAR ad from 1993 when 234,225 people died of AIDS. (amfAR)

Frost says the drugs have side effects that include chronic inflammation and a range of infections that attack the weakened immune system.

That’s why amfAR is spending $100 million to find a cure for the nearly 37 million people living with HIV around the world.

“The only real way out of an epidemic like this is through a cure and a vaccine,” says Frost. “Because we’re gonna have to cure the people who have it now and we’re gonna have to vaccinate those to prevent them from getting it in the future.”

‘Shock and Kill’ the Virus

Like many HIV patients, TJ Lee is active and pain-free.

“Once you get on meds and take care of yourself, you can live a very normal life,” says Lee, who has been HIV-positive for 16 years.

The San Francisco resident takes just one pill a day to manage his HIV. As a program manager at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation he works with newly diagnosed people who don’t know HIV is no longer a death sentence.

“I had somebody call me about a month ago,” Lee says. “He recently found out he had HIV and he thought he was going to die soon.”

For people who have access to treatment, that’s not really a concern anymore.

However, even people who are free of symptoms can have HIV lying dormant in their body’s T cells for years. The inactive virus could one day become active and reproduce.

Eliminating that latent virus is the focus of UCSF’s research. With the $20 million amfAR grant, Volberding wants to target these viral cells with a method he calls shock and kill.

The Shock and Kill Method of Eliminating the Virus
Shock and kill_edited

“If the virus is dormant, we first need to wake up that cell to start producing the virus, that’s the shock part of it,” Volberding says. “And then, once the virus has been activated we want to do something to help the body kill off those cells, to get rid of the virus.”

Researchers have to wake up the virus because when it’s dormant, the infected cell is invisible to the immune system. By shocking it out of latency, scientists can kill the infected cells, and kill the virus as it reproduces.

Listen to the Story:

This method could be an answer, Frost says, not the answer. Researchers are working on multiple ways of reducing the body’s viral load, including rapid early treatment to abort the infection and gene therapy to engineer cells to make them resistant to infection. Plus, public health efforts aimed at prevention and treatment will continue to be important, especially in places like sub-Saharan Africa, where 28.5 million people are infected with HIV.

“I don’t think we’re gonna wake up one day and see a headline in the newspaper that says ‘Cure for AIDS Found,’” Frost says. “It’s not that kind of a disease, it’s much more complicated than that.”

Because HIV mutates so quickly, he adds, a cure is likely to come in stages—sort of like a cancer model where a patient goes into remission.

Remission would mean a point where the patient doesn’t need treatment, can’t infect anyone, and doesn’t have chronic illnesses.

“We’re likely to start out curing some of the people some of the time, then more of the people more of the time,” he says, “and hopefully get to a place where we cure most of the people most of the time, and everybody who needs it has access to it.”

Frost says eliminating the virus will take not one, but a series of scientific breakthroughs, as researchers work on all fronts from latency to gene editing and gene therapy.

“There are those who said space travel would never happen,” says Frost. “People who say a cure for AIDS is impossible simply don’t understand the science. We’re going to find a cure for AIDS; I can tell you that without the slightest hesitation or doubt in my mind.”

  • Quintin

    This is ultimately bs because the big companies that created the virus now are paying people to fix their issue. Well lastly I’m no scientist of chemistry but I feel it should be simple. With all the active foods that we consume and they poison some one just needs to isolate the protein or RNA and destroy that instead of my childrens brain cells. Peace out.

  • Pingback: Aids Cure Available Within Five Years, Hopes University Of California San Francisco, Multi Million Dollar Grant Awarded To Eradicate Horrific Disease | Fito News()

  • Pingback: AIDS Cure Available Within Five Years, Hopes University Of California San Francisco, Multi-Million Dollar Grant Awarded To Eradicate Horrific Disease | Blended()

  • marvis

    hello everybody, i am so happy because finally i am cured from hiv, i can not keep this joy to myself because i have always cried for a cure, thanks to God..I’m marvis asemota by name,I Live in derojo ghana, i am from nigeria, I’m giving a testimony Same time thanks to jenny Miyahlova who make me contacted doctor DR OSARIASE the great Herbalist. he has the cure to all manner of diseases, he cured my HIV disease,I saw jenny post on facebook Last 2weeks when she testified about this great man i was like let me contact him, I though of it, then I contact DR OSARIASE via email, I didn’t believe him that much, I just wanted to give him a try, he replied my mail and Needed some Information about me, then I sent them to him, he prepared it (CURE) and sent it to FEDex Online Courier Service for delivery, he gave my details to the Courier Office, they told me that 3-5 days I will receive the package and i took the medicine as prescribed by him and I went for check-up yesterday after finishing the medicine, I was tested HIV negative, if you are HIV positive , My soul is so full with joy, God bless DR OSARIASE.contact him via

    email: dr.osariase@gmail.com

    or you call on vai mobile : +2347066763817,,

  • Sandra Rourke

    My name is sandra rourke, am from united state, Herpes has been ongoing in my family for long, I lost both parents to Herpes and it is so much pain because i contacted the disease too. i have not been able to get over it.As we all know medically,there is no solution or cure. Until the day i meant a comment on the daily news paper that was commented by a lady Brenda about how this powerful doctor who helped her got cured of the disease (Herpes) my fellow beloved i firstly taught, having a help from an African doctor was a wrong idea, but i thought of these “will i continue to stress on these disease all day when i have someone to help me save my life?” so i gather all my faiths and interest to contact him through his Email address at (dr.ehigiehomeofsolution@gmail.com), so after i have mailed him of helping get my disease cured and told me about my Tests and Results and also told him that i had spent thousands of dollars on medication. He responded to me so fast that i should not be afraid, that he is a truthful and powerful doctor.To cut the story short,He gave me some medical herbs and he thought me how am going to use them and gave me his word.At first i was skeptical about taking his medical herbs but i just gave it a try. I was on his medication for 22days when i notice some changes in my body. After the 22rd day i email him and he said he has been expecting my email,he told me to visit my doctor for another test..Honestly speaking,i never believed all he was saying until after the test when my doctor mention the statement that i am Herpes negative and the doctor started asking me how did i do it, My papers for the checkups and now i am happy and glad for his miraculous help, With these i must tell everyone who might seek for any help, either for ( Herpes) much more to contact him through his Email; dr.ehigiehomeofsolution@gmail.com. sir thank you so much for your immediate cure of my disease, i must say a big thanks for curing my disease, i owe you in return.

  • angle

    My HIV virus that was cured by a great herbal medicine man. Since last 7 months i was having these virus. last 5 weeks I was in a great pain so I told one of my friends about it he told me that there is a great herbal medicine man that can cure HIV and so many diseases and he also help people in getting pregnant and bringing back EX. I asked her if she had the contact so i could give it a try, she gave me the email dr.khumalosolutiontemple@yahoo.com , I emailed him he talked to me and he perform the necessary rituals and he told me that after few weeks I should go for a test. Which I did, when the doctor told me that am now HIV negative I couldn’t believe myself I went to see another doctor the result was still the same i couldn’t keep this to myself so i decided to let it out on this page that if anyone one here need help in curing his/her HIV virus or trying to conceive should also give this a try once again you can email him dr.khumalosolutiontemple@yahoo.com or call his mobile number +2349057915022

  • Job Adebayo

    his
    comment i job adebayo is placing is not like the day by day advert you
    read
    online before!! Its a comment that you must read to avoid been ripped
    off and know the real spell caster on earth God sent to change and turn
    lives around without any harm / side effect.
    I am so over joyful as my mouth can not start to say all that really
    happened, It happened when i saw dr alaho advert online talking about
    been
    the best when there are so many spell casters online that i have used
    that has failed me.I spent almost close to $8000 dollars online for
    those spell casters that ripped me off my money without any result. But
    when i saw Dr alaho advert online saying that there is no spell caster
    like him and so many other testimonies about him from various people and
    from various countries in the world were it was written that dr alaho
    herbal center is the best that there is non to be compared to his cure,
    Already i have personally take a decision never to apply to any herbal
    doctor online again after loosing such amount of funds on line to those
    scammers.But i don’t really know what drew my spirit / attention to that
    advert online that faithful afternoon, { I call it a faithful afternoon
    because all i desire was granted to me} There was an email at the end
    of his advert and on the good comment from the FBI and various people
    about him, I decided to send him an email telling him my problem about
    my HIV virus, money that i have lost to scammers and also having
    problems with the love of my life that i want to get married to. After
    some few minutes i received an email from him that contain the spell
    application form that i filled out and he told me that to get my HIV
    cure that i will have to get some items that i could not get here when i
    went in-search for it. He said if i can not get the items, That is
    going to cost me an amount of just $390 dollars for my kind of case that
    i told him about which i doubted to be another scam online, As i have
    read so many tips online that money should not be sent to someone you do
    not know via western union / money gram payment information’s. And Dr
    alaho insisted that i will be sending money to his messenger via this
    wire
    means. I was so skeptical because i was scammed in such a way of $8000
    dollars before,But this same spirits that attracted me to his advert
    told me inside again that this herbal cure is real and noting but real
    that i should go ahead and send him the amount since i know that there
    is no how i can get the items that he told me that will be needed for my
    HIV cure. I sent him the charges through his messenger to please help
    me get the item with the money to get my HIV cure.He promised me that in
    the next 2 weeks that i will start to see results after the spell has
    been casted to cure my HIV virus and others. I could not believe this
    because i have really been scammed and ripped off too many times for me
    to just believe till it works. To be sincere i almost faint as i was
    filled with so much excitement and happiness after 2 weeks when i went
    for check up i was now HIV negative. Then in the next 2 days the FBI
    called to tell me that they have been able to get the scammer that is
    with my money. I am so proud and happy to spread the good-news about
    this man because he surprised me in his wonderful and powerfully work
    that restored back my life. One thing that i also loved about this man
    is that he is understandable and he reduce or negotiate how much you can
    get for the work you want him to help you with. You want to meet with
    this great,most powerful herbal doctor that is 100% tested and
    trusted,Just send your emails to this email alahoremedyhome@gmail.com or whataspp or call him on +2348125341278 rewrite this email in the standard email format to use as you will get
    help from him without any disappointment.
    he is also special in this
    *HIV (with a very low cd4 count)
    HEPATITIS B
    *HERPES,
    **ASTHMA,
    *EPILEPSY,
    *CANCER,
    LASSA FEVER
    *STAPHYLOCOCCUS.

  • Oboli Omoni

    i was suffering from HIV/AIDS disease for the past 6 years ago and ever since i have been passing through serious agony in my life,i contact this infection through my boyfriend and i have done series of tests and taking drugs to be cure but unfortunate for me i still carry this deadly infection inside of me,i will love to say i was so lucky to have came across DR OZOMUDU several testimony online people testifying series of how they were totally cure of HIV/AIDS through his herbal medicine on his email: dr.ozomuduspellhome@gmail.com i contacted his email and explain my situation to him and he accepted to help me cure my HIV/AIDS disease,i followed his instruction and indeed he prepare a herbal medicine for me and after i receive the herbal medicine he told me how to apply the herbal medicine and after 3 weeks of usage i did the test again and i was confirmed negative. you can contact his Mobil number +2349030020480

  • Ramos CeCilla

    My name is Romos cecillia, my family and i live together live in USA. It was after seven years i got to discover that my Husband was unfaithful to me. I didn’t know what was going on at first but as he got deep in the affair with his new lover, i felt that our marriage was on the rocks. I notice that he no longer light up when i touch him or kiss him in his neck and his chest cos he really liked it when i did that, he also usually get naked in front of me but when he started seeing that woman he stopped it. I remember asking him if i have done anything that makes him feel irritated when i am around him then he gives silly excuses that he has been feeling stressed up and that he need space for a while. I know when you are been asked for space its usually because there is something fishy going on. I hired a private investigator to help find out what was going on. And in a week time he brought me prove that my Husband that i have lived with for seven straight year is cheating on me with his high school lover. I had picture of him walking out a of a restaurant with her and many other photo of them kissing in public like he will never be caught by someone that knows he is my Husband. I asked myself, even when we had a daughter together he could do this to me. That same night i showed him the pictures that i got from my private investigator. He didn’t look at it before saying, that he is seeing someone and he know that i just found out about it. Then he said that he is in love with her. At that moment, i didn’t know if to kill myself or to kill him but the button line is that if i was going to kill anyone it was going to be me because i was so much in love with him to even think of thinking to hurt him. As time goes on he asked for a divorce and got it and i got custody of our daughter and i weep everyday seeing my daughter with out being around her daddy. I just couldn’t get my mind off my Husband and all i could think about was getting him back and live as every family should. For a year i tried all i could to get him back with the help of my seven year old daughter. Even at that all effect was in vain, i used the help of his friend but turned out all bad. I know most people don’t believe in spell casting but believe me this was my last option and the result i most say was impressive. And i know it difficult to believe but A SPELL CASTER malliam Razak really made my life much better because he gave me my family back. He didn’t ask me to pay for what he did for me all i was to do, was to provide the materials for the spell and i should believe that he had the power to help me. Like he said, he was going to do something that will make him reset his love and affection for me just as it has always been. My Husband told me he woke up and realized that he should have never left me that i am all he needs.To make thing clear, his life with his high school lover was great before malliam Razak cast the spell, they had no disagreement on anything. My Husband said it himself that why he broke up with her is something he can not explain just that he woke up on the same bed with her after a very romantic night saying he is breaking up with her for no reason at all. Only malliam Razak can do such a thing, contact him to solve your problem with his email {malliamrazakspellcaster@gmail.com)

  • Mira Charles

    Well special thanks to God almighty for who made it possible for Dr. Iyayi, the greatest Herbal Doctor who cured me of my HIV disease . I was diagnosed of this disease in the year 2015. Thus i was taking my medications buy i was not myself because everyone who knows me went far away from me and this was killing me fast than i could ever imagined . Until last few days. My friend came to me and told me that she saw so many testimonies on how a spell caster cured people HIV disease,and also cast spells that can bring back your loved ones. I never believed in spells so i told my friend this was too good to be true, but she convinced me to give it a try and see if this could help{ i gave it a thought}. So we both went inside and opened the site where she saw the comments about Dr. Iyayi. I was shocked to see people giving testimony of how they got cured of different diseases, so i emailed him. He responded and told me how much it will cost me to get the herbs prepared for me and without hesitation, i did all he required and few days later i received a parcel and the content was my medication to my HIV virus. Immediately i gave him a call to know how to use the medication, which he explained everything to me and i did exactly as i was instructed.Thursday being the 12th of May i was confirmed Negative thus i wasn’t satisfied, i had to go to another hospital for HIV test and result remain the same that i was HIV negative i couldn’t hold my self i fell on the floor with tears of joy! Who could have believe i will ever have a future after being diagnosed positive, but i give all the glory to Dr. Iyayi Contact Email:{iyayispiritualherbalcenter.ng@gmail.com}… Tel Phone: +2349022778531

Author

Lindsey Hoshaw

Lindsey Hoshaw is an interactive producer for KQED Science. Before joining KQED, Lindsey was a science correspondent for The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Forbes and Scientific American. On Twitter @lindseyhoshaw