Treatment, not a cure
There is no cure for HIV. However, when taken properly, combinations of different anti-HIV drugs (often called antiretroviral drugs) can reduce the amount of HIV in the blood to levels so low that they cannot be detected using the tests that we currently have.
Reducing the amount of HIV, or HIV viral load, in an infected person's body has been shown to reduce the risk of becoming ill or dying because of HIV. So, reducing HIV viral load, and keeping it low, is the aim of HIV treatment.
The aim of HIV treatment is to get and maintain an undetectable viral load – i.e. a viral load below 40 or 50 (depending on the test used), the cut-off point for the very sensitive tests in use. in clinics This is now the aim of HIV treatment for everyone, whether you're taking your first combination of anti-HIV drugs or have considerable experience of HIV treatment.
As your HIV viral load goes down, your immune system will start to recover. This should be indicated by an increase in your CD4 cell count, a key marker of the strength of your immune system. There’s also a good chance you’ll notice an improvement in your health at the same time, if you have been ill due to HIV.
Some researchers have looked at whether treatment with anti-HIV drugs can eliminate, or eradicate, HIV from the body. But even though treatment with powerful combinations of anti-HIV drugs can be successful at getting viral load down to very low levels, HIV will still infect cells and reproduce itself at those very low levels. Anti-HIV drugs can’t kill these cells. This means that, with the currently available drugs, eradication of HIV is not possible.
What’s more, anti-HIV drugs are less good at controlling HIV replication in the brain, and other organs of the body.
Even when HIV is being suppressed to undetectable low levels, the remaining virus could rebound to high levels if you stop taking your anti-HIV drugs.