Good and bad news on HIV

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LEUVEN, Belgium - When it comes to finding a cure for HIV, the good news always seems to come with bad news. This time is no different.

The bad news comes from researchers at the University of Leuven in Belgium who discovered a new HIV strain that progresses into AIDS three times faster than the more common strain.

That’s frustrating and scary news for the 35 million people around the world living with the virus. What’s even scarier for Americans is the new strain is close - found in Cuba - just 90 miles off the Florida coast.

For most people with the virus, it takes about 10 years for HIV to advance to AIDS but the study found Cubans infected with the CRF 19 strain, developed AIDS in only three years. This rapid progression has doctors worried that those infected with this strand will be too sick to treat by the time they’re diagnosed.

The good news is there’s progress in developing a vaccine.

Infectious disease specialists at Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida created a molecule that resists the virus - at least in monkeys.

Scientists tested the effectiveness by injecting four of eight monkeys with the molecule then followed it up with large doses of the HIV virus. After 34 weeks, the “molecule monkeys” were virus-free while the other four had contracted HIV.

While this is a “shot in the arm” there is still a long way to go before the molecule is even tested on humans.