Tranisha Arzah, 26, was born with HIV and works as an HIV educator.

People who acquire HIV can lose a critical function in their body: their immunity. Left untreated, HIV infects the immune system and disables a person’s ability to fight infections, which can turn the common cold into a death sentence. Antiviral treatment can prevent this from happening, but if medications are stopped the virus comes back almost immediately.

Currently, one out of every 200 American adults lives with HIV. As doctors, scientists and advocates gather in South Africa this week at the International AIDS Conference, researchers at Seattle Children’s have been thinking hard about how to kick HIV, and they have an ambitious goal: They want to develop an immunotherapy that harnesses the power of the immune system to kill and resist HIV.

“Immunotherapy has been successful in treating cancer and we’re optimistic that we can take that same technology and apply it to HIV,” said Dr. Thor Wagner, an infectious disease specialist and pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. “The hope is that in the future we’ll be able to take an HIV-positive person’s T cells and re-engineer them to attack and resist the virus.” Read full post »