by Matthew Hodson  @Matthew_Hodson

This is a repost of an article taken from FS magazine issue 138 from 2013. We have decided to repost this article in reaction to the recent exagerrated reports of a 'HIV cure' in the news.

Is there going to be a cure for HIV any time soon? To be honest, I don’t know. In recent months there have been a few stories of people who have been ‘cured’, babies mostly but some adults too. In most cases the circumstances of the cure do not apply to those of us who have been living with a diagnosis for many years, or the risks involved are too great. At the least, the theory of a cure has been established so it’s understandable that people are starting to get hopeful that a cure isn’t too far behind. 

So let me put it on the line: I’m writing this in October 2013; if there’s a cure in the next five years I will gladly eat my hat. Hell, I’ll probably tuck in if a cure comes along in the next ten years. 

Some provisos: by cure I don’t necessarily even mean complete eradication of the virus from my body (although that would be nice). I mean a one-off treatment which will permanently prevent the virus from turning my immune system on itself, leaving me vulnerable to a wide range of diseases which are otherwise rare. Also I want it to mean I’m no longer potentially infectious to my sexual partner (or, in the unlikely event that I start slamming and sharing works, my drug buddies). And I want it be safe and available to me, preferably on the NHS, if we still have one by then. Surely that’s not too much to ask for from a ‘cure’?

Gambling that a cure is going to come along before you feel any ill-effects of HIV infection is a pretty risky gamble to take.

So why am I so pessimistic? Well maybe it’s as a result of working in HIV prevention for so long. Ever since I was diagnosed 15 years ago there have been whispers of a cure or (less useful to me, but desirable nonetheless) a vaccine, usually described as about five years down the line. What we’ve got instead are treatments that are pretty effective for most people and which make positive men less infectious, and can even make negative men less likely to acquire infection. But the cure remains tantalisingly out of reach. Maybe it’s just around the corner but maybe it will remain a retreating target for years, possibly even decades to come.

So for those people who are relaxed about sexual safety because they believe that a cure is imminent, I would suggest that you don’t get too complacent. Drug trials are long and laborious and all too often they fail. Gambling that a cure is going to come along before you feel any ill-effects of HIV infection is a pretty risky gamble to take. And don’t be fooled that an HIV diagnosis is a small or petty thing. While the treatment of HIV has improved enormously over the last few years, for most people getting a diagnosis is still a huge and traumatic event. 

Even 15 years since my own diagnosis, I really want a cure. My life isn’t terrible but I reckon I’d be much happier if I could magically or medically regain my negative HIV status. Like many people I feel that I’ve learned valuable lessons about life and about myself from the experience of living with HIV but, having learned those, can I go back now please?

One more proviso: if this happens, I’d like the opportunity to choose which hat I eat. I’m thinking maybe a straw boater would be best, after all it would be a bit of a waste of medical advances if I were cured of HIV only to die from hat poisoning.