Sexual Health news - HIV

Researchers learn more about what may slow HIV progression

When an individual contracts HIV, it may be difficult for a physician to tell how long the patient has until the virus transgresses to AIDS. For some, it may be a matter of two years, but for others it could take a couple of decades. Previously, scientists determined that the reason why some people can stay healthy for longer is partially due to the HLA-B*57 gene, which is found in less than 5 percent of the population, including most of these slow progressors. Now, researchers have narrowed this phenomenon down further.

According to a study published in the Journal of Virology, a killer T-cell immune response that targets the IW9 section of the HIV protein may be the reason why some HIV-positive individuals don't develop AIDS as quickly as others. This is the first time researchers were able to identify a particular location of the viral protein that may influence how it progresses.

"Since the hope for a vaccine is that it would elicit immune control, the thought has been that understanding how B57 protection works would yield helpful lessons and principles for vaccine design," said Catherine Brennan, lead author of the study. "There have been a lot of efforts to understand how the immune response to HIV in B57 carriers is superior to the response in non-B57 carriers, but it has been hard to nail anything down conclusively."

Currently, there are approximately 50,000 new HIV infections each year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 60 percent of these cases occur in gay and bisexual men. There are many ongoing research efforts with hopes of decreasing this rate of incidence and preventing the virus from progressing in patients who are already diagnosed.