The dreaded HIV virus has been plaguing unlucky individuals since the 1980s. There is still no exact way to determine how it started, but it has been baffling experts in finding a way to cure it. Various vaccines in the past have proven to not be 100 percent effective, but HIV researchers have made a discovery that may put them closer to a cure once and for all amidst the shocking epidemic.
A majority of the people infected with the virus originally were homosexuals, and they still comprise almost all cases. This unfortunate event created a social norm where it was okay to be paranoid of gays although reports of women being infected have surfaced. Most of the people today who are infected with the virus are gay and bisexual men between the ages of 13 – 24. It has more commonly been seen in people who are from a lower socioeconomic stand point.
The frightening part about HIV is that it seems to have come from nowhere and one day appeared in several countries, claiming the lives of thousands. To this day, it is estimated that over one million are infected. One in six cases are discovered to go undiagnosed, and a huge misconception that is common among people is believing they cannot get it. HIV usually leads to AIDS which is the real killer. In the early days of its discovery, AIDS was given names like “Gay-related immune deficiency” or the “gay plague.” Scientists have been baffled in trying to find a cure for the virus, but it has been futile due to the complexity of the virus.
HIV is a retrovirus which means that it is very sly. A majority of people do not see any problems until the later stages of infection when it is already causing huge damage. Once the virus enters the body, it quickly attaches itself specifically to T-cells. These are the ones who are responsible for triggering the immune response in the body. The virus inserts its genetic material into the cell’s nucleus which is the beginning of a lifelong infection, and begins to replicate like any normal cell would. With the human cell carrying genetic code for the virus, more of the viral cells are formed and the same process occurs repeatedly on other T-cells. As it grows, the immune systems gets weaker which eventually leads to AIDS. Throughout this shocking epidemic, HIV researchers have recently made a finding that could put them closer to finally finding a cure
With a rapidly changing genetic code, it has been tough to develop a vaccine that can combat the virus effectively instead of slightly putting it at bay for those infected. Researchers have discovered a protein by the name of PQBP1 acts like a front-line defense against viruses. The results of research have shown that it can identify the HIV virus and then kick-start the immune system to begin attacking. The main focus of vaccines is to train the body to recognize an infection and know exactly how to eradicate it. Most vaccines currently are not doing a great job of triggering a big enough response to effectively get rid of HIV cells. The current plan is finding a way to mimic an HIV cell making contact with PQBP1.
The number of cases continue to increase and they do not appear to be slowing down at any rate. It is no doubt that HIV is shocking epidemic, but the findings of the PQBP1 protein may just be that last push to discovering a cure once and for all.
By Frank Grados
Huffpost – Why HIV/AIDS Risk Among Young Gay, Bisexual Men Is Tied To Societal Issues
San Diego Union Tribune – Study finds new path to HIV vaccines
Avert – History of AIDS Up to 1986
Avert – HIV Structure and Life Cycle
Photo Courtesy of Steven Milleham’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License