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Grand Rounds
Clinician's Corner
July 14, 2010

Long-term Nonprogressive Disease Among Untreated HIV-Infected Individuals: Clinical Implications of Understanding Immune Control of HIV

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.

JAMA. 2010;304(2):194-201. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.925

As of 2008, more than 33 million adults and children have been estimated to be living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Among them are rare patients (<0.5%) who have remained clinically well without antiretroviral therapy after almost 20 years of infection. They maintain stable CD4 cell counts and suppressed HIV replication to levels comparable with those measured in patients receiving combination antiretroviral therapy. No known epidemiologic or behavioral factors are predictive of untreated, nonprogressive HIV infection; however, host genetics and immune response factors, most specifically HLA antigen class I–restricted HIV-specific CD8 T cells, appear to be primarily responsible for this remarkable phenotype in a majority of these individuals. These patients offer hope that durable control of HIV infection is possible and can provide important insight to inform the development of the next generation of HIV/AIDS vaccines and immune-based therapies. This article reviews clinical features of these unique patients and discusses them in the context of nonprogressors enrolled in other cohorts. Potential mechanisms underlying nonprogressive HIV infection and scientific discoveries, facilitated by the participation of these patients in clinical trials, of relevance to the design of an efficacious HIV/AIDS vaccine are also highlighted.