By Stuart P. Atkinson
UNAIDS (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS) estimated that at the end of 2009 33.3 million people were living with HIV, and that in the same year there had been 1.8 million AIDS-related deaths and 2.6 million new infections (UN Millennium Goals report 2010). The benefits of anti-retroviral therapy (ART) have been demonstrated in some patients, however, resistance can develop, therapy is expensive (meaning that the vast majority of sufferers cannot have access) and multiple organ toxicity occurs with long-term use. Therefore, a safer and more cost effective therapy is clearly required. There have been reported cases of patients living with long-term HIV infection without progression to AIDS and in other cases patients seem to have some degree of immunity when exposed to the virus – both scenarios suggest a possible genetic influence on an individual’s response to HIV infection.