Do you know how much science has contributed to the world of HIV and AIDS over the last decade?

Science has made great progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS over the last 10 years. There have been great achievements in “functional” cures, better drugs, fewer side effects, preventive efforts and longer lives.

What we knew or thought we knew about HIV is constantly evolving and changing. It is always helpful to brush up on our knowledge in order to prevent, test and treat this disease.

Here are 6 important findings that have changed the face of HIV and AIDS:

1. PrEP Is Effective.

PrEP — which stands for Pre-exposure prophylaxis — can help those who are likely to get HIV, such as sex workers or those in a relationship with an HIV-positive partner. These daily pills can help prevent infection. Although this drug is not 100 percent foolproof, recent studies have demonstrated that it is indeed very effective if taken regularly.

2. Earlier Detection.

HIV can now be detected within weeks of exposure. Early detection can result in better health outcomes and near-normal lifespans. It can also prevent further transmission since a major part of new infections can come from those who have been recently infected.

3. Undetectable Viral Load.

Thanks to the new drugs produced to keep the virus at bay, many HIV-positive individuals have an undetectable viral load in their blood streams. This low viral load can reduce the spread of HIV among heterosexual, gay and bisexual couples. Over the past several years, various studies have confirmed this trend, which has inspired new strategies that can help reduce the risk of transmission.

4. Longer Lives.

People with HIV in high-income western countries are now living longer and healthier lives, thanks to the effective antiretroviral drugs introduced in the 1990s. However, it’s important to note that the death rate among HIV-positive people continues to be higher than HIV-negative people. Most deaths in HIV-positive individuals are connected to late detection of the disease.

5. Shifting Demographics.

As people continue to live healthy and longer lives with HIV, the demographics of the HIV-positive population is also shifting.. According to the CDC, in 2014, an estimated 1.2 million people were living with HIV in the U.S. An estimated 44,073 people were diagnosed with HIV infection in the U.S. in 2014. The number of new HIV diagnoses fell 19 percent from 2005 to 2014. Despite some progress, HIV infection has increased among a few groups: African American gay and bisexual men accounted for the largest number of estimated HIV diagnoses (11,201), followed by white gay and bisexual men (9,008).

6. A Cure May Be in Sight.

According to a study published in the journal of Scientific Reports,, researches are looking at a new method of curing the disease by targeting the genetic code of HIV that goes inside the cell. The new method uses the protein Cas9, which was modified in order to recognize HIV’s genetic code that inserts itself in the cells. Once the modified protein recognizes HIV’s genetic code, an enzyme will be released to remove the sequence, snipping away the virus. After the process, this “clean” blood is injected back to the patient. This is just the beginning of what may be a huge breakthrough in the fight against the disease.

Also, according to the NIH, scientists have identified an antibody from an HIV-infected person that potently neutralized 98 percent of HIV isolates tested, including 16 of 20 strains resistant to other antibodies of the same class. The breadth and potency of this antibody, named N6, make it an attractive candidate for further development to potentially treat or prevent HIV infection, say the researchers.

Positive Care at Keck Medicine of USC in Los Angeles provides a full spectrum of treatments focusing on the needs of patients living with HIV and AIDS. Our experts in Positive Care include a team of infectious disease physicians and general internists specializing in HIV. At Keck Medicine of USC, our expert physicians are committed to providing comprehensive adult primary care to all members of our community. We provide services at the Keck Medical Center and Keck Medicine – Downtown Los Angeles locations. To find out more, visit http://www.keckmedicine.org/positive-care/.

By Ramin Zahed