Prof Samuel Ato Duncan, Executive President of the Centre of Awareness Global Peace Mission (COA), has launched a Research Fund to mobilise resources to further establish the efficacy of a potential cure for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Prof Duncan says COA has, so far, invested as much as US$20 million into the research for an HIV cure, though the company needs between US$100 million to US$200 million to complete research work on the potential cure.
He said why HIV has been the centre of focus for COA was because the virus poses a difficult medical challenge to those affected, since once the virus enters the human system it infects the ‘T’ cells in the immune system and changes their genetic makeup.
“… So instead of the cells protecting [the] body as they are meant to, they now create more HIV. This eventually kills the body’s T cells in the process,” he explains.
Launching the research fund yesterday in Accra, the COA Executive President added that HIV infects a kind of white blood cell called a CD4 lymphocyte, a key player in the immune response.
“What makes HIV so sneaky is that it infects the very cells that are supposed to rub out viral infections.
“HIV replicates in CD4 cells when they are activated — that is, when they are triggered by an infection. But some HIV-infected cells become inactive before the virus replicates. They go into a resting mode — and the HIV inside them becomes dormant until the cell is activated,” he stated.
According to him, the only way for patients to treated and cure of the virus, is when the viruses are smoked out by a well researched formula, because, once a patient’s T cell count drops to a certain number, he/she is considered as having Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome AIDS.
“At this point, his immune system is no longer able to protect him against otherwise harmless infections and viruses. Anti-retroviral drugs are given to HIV patients to help them live longer, but the patient still remains HIV-positive. This is because eliminating the virus completely is something scientists have not figured out how to do yet,” he said.
He noted that Anti-retroviral drugs don’t affect HIV hiding in resting cells, and these cells represent a hidden reservoir of HIV. When support stops, the resting cells eventually become active. The HIV inside them replicates and quickly spreads. That’s why current HIV supports don’t cure HIV.
Any HIV cure requires finding viral reservoirs, “waking” them up, and making them visible for support.
Why he needs more funds to conduct further research is that HIV hides inside the DNA of healthy T cells, a place where current medicine is unable to reach.