September 26, 2002
11:57 AM   Subscribe

For years, it's been observed that some people infected with HIV never develop full-blown AIDS. Now American and Chinese scientists think they know why. But remember kids, barebacking is still dangerous, and a cocktail is not a cure. Maybe this research will change all that.
posted by WolfDaddy (21 comments total)
hmm. I can't find the article on Science's list of AIDS/HIV research page.
posted by mathowie at 12:03 PM on September 26, 2002

and, it'll take what, 10 years before an actual drug is available for patients?
posted by matteo at 12:13 PM on September 26, 2002

Matt, I couldn't either, thus the link to just a news post. Perhaps I jumped the gun, this news article was just put up today, and Science's site doesn't yet have info about the latest journal up. The closest I could find was this WSJ article from April posted on the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center's website.

I'll find more useful links and add them here as they develop.
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:14 PM on September 26, 2002

Assuming this story is accurate, this could be very exciting news. Thanks for the link.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:15 PM on September 26, 2002

I remember reading a science fiction book where they had solved the AIDS problem by infecting everyone with a strand of HIV that didn't develop into AIDS. I do know that some northern European people are genetically (somewhat?) immune to HIV.
posted by rosmo at 12:16 PM on September 26, 2002

I don't believe infecting everyone with a particular strand would work. I read recently that someone got HIV twice, two different strands.
posted by thekorruptor at 12:35 PM on September 26, 2002

Pretty exciting stuff, but I wonder...HIV is a 'meta-species': it has an amazingly high rate of mutation, and it's better to think of it as a 'pool' of contantly shifting phenotypes than a single species. This is how it can 'evolve' resistance to many drugs. So one has to wonder: if these proteins were present in more than the 2% of the population they currently are, would that provide enough of a selection pressure to evolve HIV 'around' them? Or do they operate in such a fundamental way that it couldn't do so without ceasing to be a threat?

I think we may end up learning a lot more from HIV/AIDS than just how to cure/avoid it - though these are certainly the most important questions in the 'short' term.
posted by freebird at 12:40 PM on September 26, 2002

I do know that some northern European people are genetically (somewhat?) immune to HIV.

that was in the science fiction book as well, right?
posted by matteo at 12:58 PM on September 26, 2002

A really bad side effect of the AIDS cocktails, I think, is the fact that people focus on "how long you can live with AIDS," so they think it's not so bad if you get it.

I think people that bareback are irresponsible, selfish, and immature. (Or have interalized homophobia.) Want a more intense emotional connection with a partner? Give me a break. That just sounds like the straight argument of the woman having to use birth control "because a condom just doesn't feel right" for a man. And if you're already HIV+, you can increase your viral load and make yourself sicker (even be infected with another strain) if you continue to practice unsafe sex. Not to mention PASSING ON A DEATH SENTENCE TO YOUR PARTNER. I don't get the promiscuity of many in the gay community, or how they can rationalize it in today's world.

matteo: Can't find a link, but I've also read about a small village in Italy, where all the people seem to be immune to the disease.
posted by gramcracker at 1:05 PM on September 26, 2002

I've heard about the genetic "immunity" to HIV as well. I believe that this study may be discovering the exact mechanism for it. I heard about it on a PBS show about evolution...a scientist discovered a virus similar to HIV in cats - it makes common house cats deathly ill, but in other species of feline like tigers and lions, the virus is present in their blood but does no harm. He reasoned that at some point in the past they'd been exposed to the virus and that whatever mutation or trait left them immune had been passed on. He went on to theorize that the Black Plague may have been what left a certain percentage of people of European descent to have an "immunity" to HIV.
posted by dnash at 1:19 PM on September 26, 2002

matteo, rosmo may be referring to this. The article is eight years old so I don't know if the theory has been abandoned or not. Or on preview - what dnash said.
posted by snez at 1:21 PM on September 26, 2002

I don't get the promiscuity of many in the gay community, or how they can rationalize it in today's world.

As with everything, gramcracker, we as a species are short-sighted when it comes to this matter. The cocktail gives a very powerful illusion of hope to certain people. While it does improve quality of life for many, to me, that's only in terms of "at least some animal virus isn't eating my brain today."

I am of an age where I was too young to be part of the initial wave of AIDS deaths, but too old to be unable to remember the paranoia, rage, and grief (not to mention instruction in safer sex) those deaths caused. There's hardly anyone I can look to as a "gay elder", someone whose experiences I can learn from, whose history I can appreciate, because most of them are dead, many years dead. I am a gay elder, by mere dint of fact that those who were just 3-20 years older than I were the first to be wiped out almost completely. I'm not even forty. Yet I'm an "elder".

I don't want to lose the generation that follows me, too. So boys, stop IM'ing me with "wrapped or unwrapped" as a means of starting a conversation. I'll snap you back so hard, you'll think you've been doused with water shipped from the Arctic.

He went on to theorize that the Black Plague may have been what left a certain percentage of people of European descent to have an "immunity" to HIV.

That ... is fascinating.
posted by WolfDaddy at 1:23 PM on September 26, 2002

I meant to say the article is six years old...
posted by snez at 1:27 PM on September 26, 2002

I don't get the promiscuity of many in the gay community, or how they can rationalize it in today's world.

Neither do I. It seems to an an accepted thing in the gay community that everyone is going to be promiscuous, so why not be promiscuou themselves. The community hates the stereotype, but then follows through on it.

This is also why I can't seem to get a date. If you want something more in a gay relationship than sex, than you are basically considered a freak and an outcast. Monogomy is not "straight" and it's not just guys who want it for religious purposes. Some of us want it because we want to be with someone we care about, and be safe and not get a myriad of diseases that are spread around by the carelessness of the so called "community".
posted by benjh at 1:28 PM on September 26, 2002

benjh, that's not true at all...look other places if you find people consider you a freak or outcast...(as for monogamy--well, try it first before you consider it safe--5 of my friends got hiv thru their "monogamous" boyfriends....

*sarcasm and bitterness* Didn't everyone hear from Sullivan in the Times a few years ago that Aids was over? of the big reasons more and more younger people are barebacking because that's what everyone tells them--Aids is a managable disease, and you can live a long life with HIV, bla bla bla...*/sarcasm and bitterness* You people under 30 who haven't buried all your college friends are going to be doing just that if you're not safe--even in a monogamous relationship!

Meanwhile I'm much more upset about the nonoxynol-9 stuff...
I thought that was helping me stay negative for these past 20 years...

(i'm done now....)
posted by amberglow at 3:07 PM on September 26, 2002

The Science article is called Mystery Anti-HIV Factor Unmasked? and it is only available, for the time being, to subscribers. With free registration, though, you can see a summary of the article. Or see this brief of the technical points.
posted by dhartung at 8:51 PM on September 26, 2002


The genetic HIV immunity was in the news a couple years ago. I'm not sure if it made you completely immune or just a bit more resistant. Unfortunately I couldn't find a link to the article. It's really more of a scientific curiosity than anything that could or should affect one's sexual behavior.
posted by rosmo at 1:19 AM on September 27, 2002

rosmo, the degree of resistance depends if you have just one or two copies of the right allele. People with one copy (~10% of caucasians) are still readily infected, but progress to aids more slowly than usual. People with 2 copies (~1% of caucasians) have nearly complete resistance. The allele is much less common in non-caucasians.
posted by shoos at 2:00 AM on September 27, 2002

I think this paper has been way overhyped. Ho seems to be pretty good at attracting the spotlight. He got Time Magazine's Man/Person of the Year a while back for making the truly amazing discovery that a combination of anti-HIV drugs work better than singly-administered ones. Wow.

Anyways, the data in the new paper indicates that the anti-HIV proteins reduce virus production by about 50%. To me, that just doesn't merit front page stories on all the mainstream web news sites. AZT alone, by comparison, can inhibit virus production by 100% (until resistant viral variants arise - but that may be a problem with these defensin proteins as well)

The base problem is that the annual NIH budget (which funds the majority of biomedical research in the states) is like 3% of the defense budget and about 1% of what the US spends each year on health care. So next time you vote...
posted by shoos at 2:24 AM on September 27, 2002

If two gay men have unprotected sex, people call it barebacking.

If a male and a female have unprotected sex, and the female gets pregnant, it's just called sex.

Why the double standard?
posted by LinemanBear at 7:26 AM on September 27, 2002

It's not a double standard, LinemanBear. Men and women who have unprotected sex are also barebacking; whether or not pregnancy occurs is irrelevant to the usage of the term. Straight people have chosen not to adopt the term or are unaware of its usage by gay people.
posted by WolfDaddy at 11:21 AM on September 27, 2002

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