Kick it into the River

Scientists behind pioneering HIV research are asking for caution, stating it would be premature to call recent clinical trial a cure despite widespread misreporting from the national press earlier this month.

The RIVER clinical trial, testing the ‘kick and kill’ hypothesis, is still in its early stages, but has shown early signs of promise as a cure for HIV. 

Sarah Fidler, Professor of HIV and Communicable Diseases at Imperial College London and Chief Investigator for the RIVER study stated: “This first participant has now completed the intervention and we have found it to be safe, and well tolerated.”

Crucially, she explained: “Only when all 50 study participants have completed the whole study, by 2018, will we be able to tell if there has been an effect on curing HIV.”

An HIV patient wishing to remain anonymous made his frustrations known: “A 'cure' is likely to be many years off. I have a slightly skeptical view of the 'kick and kill' strategies. I tend to be pessimistic that the RIVER study will bear any significant fruit — would love to be proved wrongthough!”

Steve Worrall, from the charity Positive East, echoed these sentiments, adding this type of news is received skeptically.

He explained: “People are used to this form of news story. The ripple of initial excitement probably affects the general public more than the HIV field. Mainstream media had a headline grabbing good news story.”

The CHERUB collaboration, which brings together major UK research centres seeking a cure for HIV, tweeted their frustration, singling out The Daily Telegraph newspaper, who have since issued a correction to their article. 

The trial is testing the ‘kick and kill’ method of treatment, which awakens dormant HIV virus’ for the patient’s own immune system to clear; however, patents are still taking antiretroviral therapy, the mainstay of HIV treatment.

Sarah Radcliffe, senior spokesperson for the National AIDS Trust, put the study into perspective: “A cure for HIV would clearly be life-changing for those who currently need to take medication daily for the rest of their lives. Each new study brings us closer to cure, but we are still far from this being a reality.”

Mehmet Hassan