(SNO) — Project Coordinator of the OECS HIV/TB Elimination Grant, Dr. Cleophus D’Auvergne, is advising caution following news that a United Kingdom patient’s HIV has become “undetectable” following a stem cell transplant.
The news raised hope that a cure for the disease is possible but health officials in Saint Lucia are warning that it remains very real on the island, with 44 new cases reported in 2017.
Speaking with HTS News, Dr. D’Auvergne said countries should exercise caution.
“The findings should be taken with a bit of caution because there is still a system whereby the HIV virus can reenter the cell and start proliferating again,” he said.
He explained that the UK patient is in remission but there is possibility that the virus can multiply again.
“But so far it shows that the patient is in remission for a considerable period of time,” Dr. D’Auvergne said.
He warned that people need to stop becoming too complacent due to drugs that are available to treat HIV.
“We have to take greater responsibility for our behavior, or high-risk-seeking behavior such as having unprotected sex, multiple partners, as well as alcohol abuse, substance abuse that contribute to our inhibition,” he stated. “So it is a question of focusing on our behavioral aspects so that they can be augmented towards prevention efforts.”
He pointed out there should be a collaborative approach to combating the virus involving the government and civil society, with the youth taking ownership because “HIV is something they have to confront in the future”.
Dr. D’Auvergne explained that more men, especially men who have sex with men, are dying of HIV, and is affecting the most productive aspect of the society.
“And that has implications for our economy … and our human resources,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Gail Gajadhar of the Infectious Disease Unit in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, and acting senior medical officer, said despite the UK patient’s undetectable virus load, a ‘cure’ for HIV is nowhere near, however it can allow for more research to find a cure.
“Right now a cure of HIV is not on the horizon,” she warned.