Friday, July 31, 2015
This morning, I read an article which broke news of something researchers have discovered that could bring us closer to a cure for HIV.
Shoro niyen abi?
We have read so many such articles over the past many years; too many times we have been brought “a step closer” to a cure for HIV without being any the closer to any sort of cure.
This BBC article is shaa different. Somehow.
It tells of how researchers have shown in a study published in PLoS Pathogens that HIV can be “flushed out of its hiding places in the body” using a certain cancer drug. Yesso. There is this drug that is used to prevent cancer in sun-damaged skin; now, a component of it – called ingenol mebutate or PEP005 – is thought to be potentially useful in the struggle to find a cure for HIV.
Let me tell you a short story about HIV, a story that will avoid the usual talk about how you can get infected (or infect others) and instead talk about how it behaves after it has established a military garrison inside your body.
|The HIV virus|
You see, HIV is an expert at 21st century warfare. It fights hard and it fights dirty. It launches into an all-out shock-and-awe shooting campaign after it has spent several years using guerilla (hit-and-run) tactics to progressively wear down the body’s defences.
The “hit” part of the tactics is well-known to doctors, nurses, and those gloved, needle-wielding, laboratory scientists who take your blood and perform your HIV test and then, with faces as bland as the word itself, write the result on a piece of paper, put that in an envelope, send it to a counselor who then calls you and, rather than tell you the result you are desperate to hear, launches into a lengthy sermon about abstinence from sex, faithfulness to one uninfected partner, and correct, consistent use of condoms. Yea. They all know the “hit” part, because that is the part that begins to give you symptoms. That is the part that makes you have that diarrhea that never stops, or to begin to have that mild cough that, for some reason, refuses to go away despite all the Septrins, Erythromycins, Augmentins, “miksierem ogwus”, and Aboniki balm-flavoured steam inhalations. It is also the hit part that ensures the virus is detected in blood when you run that test whose results they seem to take forever to tell you (sort of like how they behave when you go for a pregnancy test at a time when you hope you are anything BUT pregnant).
But there is also the “run” part of the “hit-and-run”; the part where the virus evades attack by your body’s natural defences.
Under normal circumstances, your body routinely fights against foreign invaders. Sometimes, it appears to enjoy those fights sef; those fights – which it turns into service drills – enable it to ensure that its white-blood-coat soldiers are kept “in form”, and that military equipment like “the complement system” are readily available and updated to meet new challenges; these drills ensure that subsequent challenges from enemies like chicken pox and tuberculosis are summarily dealt with, without you even being aware of it, and without your having to send a plane-load of cash to South Africa for purchase of equipment.
HIV seems to be adept at avoiding your soldiers’ fire and merciless at destroying your military hardware. It penetrates your Defence Headquarters and compromises the military software too (that one you guys call DNA, abi?), at which point your body becomes its (and your) own enemy, generating more HIV cells instead of generating more soldiers to fight the HIV. Ya Allah, HIV is as devious as it is methodical.
And more, it is forward-looking. It plans for the rainy day. It doesn’t just go taking and spending money from the Excess Crude Account without making provision for the occurrence of an unforeseen economic downturn, you get my drift? Yea, HIV “hides” copies of itself in areas of the body where it is very, very difficult or near impossible for drugs to reach in enough amounts to be useful. So, in the event of a rainy day when you finally get a drug that comes into your body and destroys all the viruses in your blood and clears them like President Obasanjo cleared Odi, Bayelsa, there are copies of the virus safely hidden away which can continue the missionary work of destruction once the drug’s job is done and the drug is gone.
Which is why this news from the BBC is such cheery news. If indeed a drug is discovered which, in safe doses, is able to reactivate latent HIV and allow for the subsequent total elimination of the virus, which is in effect able to smoke HIV cells out from whatever holes they may be hiding in, then perhaps, perhaps…