Researchers recently tested their pioneering therapy on the first of 50 participants in a clinical trial, The Sunday Times. Early tests on the first patient, a 44-year-old British social worker, show the virus is undetectable in the man’s blood.
“This is one of the first serious attempts at a full cure for HIV,” Mark Samuels of Britain’s National Institute for Health Research told The Sunday Times, Britain’s largest-selling national Sunday newspaper.
“We are exploring the real possibility of curing HIV,” Samuels added. “This is a huge challenge and it’s still early days, but the progress has been remarkable.”
Britain’s National Health Service is backing the clinical trials, which are the result of a collaboration between the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College London, University College London and King’s College London.
The trial’s first patient, who said he was gay but did not give his name, said he participated in the trial to help others with the disease.
HIV, which stands for “human immunodeficiency virus,” is mainly transmitted through sexual acts or by using infected needles. The virus weakens a person’s immune system by destroying important T-cells that fight disease and infection.
About 36.7 million people are living with HIV worldwide, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Around 2.1 million new cases were added in 2015, with nearly two-thirds of new infections occurring in Sub-Saharan Africa, the CDC reported.
If left untreated, HIV can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Around 1.1 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses last year.