By REBECCA MUSHOTA
THE gene-based cure for HIV announced recently means that total cure for HIV/AIDS is within the next 10 to 15 years, the Centre for Infectious Diseases Research in Zambia (CIDRZ) has said. CIDRZ chief executive officer Izukanji Sikazwe said the gene-based cure for HIV that was announced by the American National Institutes of Health (NIH) which would also be accessible to low income countries like Zambia, meant that ending HIV/AIDS was now within reach.
Recently the NIH and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced that it was investing US$200 million over the next four years toward
developing a gene-based cure for sickle cell disease and HIV which will be affordable to low income countries.
“This means that our whole lives will change. Imagine life without HIV, we are going to see the cure of HIV within our lifetime,” Dr
Dr Sikazwe who is part of the strategic planning team working with the think tank developing the gene based cure and is co-chair of the HIV
Cure Africa Acceleration Partnership (HCAAP) said the gene-based cure under discussion was targeting a single shot cure.
Dr Sikazwe said the gene-based cure would cut off the sick gene unlike the Antiretroviral Treatment (ART) that eliminated the floating virus
and could not get rid of the virus that was intertwined in the DNA. She said with sickle-cell, technology advancements regarding gene
based cure had reached an advanced stage and that was why the cure under NIH was hoping to replicate that.
She said the HCAAP was preparing stakeholders like governments, service providers, people living with HIV and communities on how to
plan for the cure. Dr Sikazwe said it was important to cure HIV/AIDS because funding towards treatment was slowing down.
About $26 billion was needed by 2020 to provide ART globally.She said the gene-based cure was targeting low income countries because providing a cure meant supplying all the countries regardless of income status.
And Treatment Advocacy and Literacy Campaign (TALC) programme manager
Felix Mwanza said people living with HIV were looking forward to the cure and believed that it would happen because of the various technological advancements. Mr Mwanza said Zambians would live healthier lives if HIV was completely flushed out of the country.
He, however, said that it was important for people on ART to adhere to the treatment regime in order to be found in a better position to receive the cure.