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August 21, 2019
Two HIV activists who took part in an early gene therapy trial to cure or control HIV and the scientist who led that research will be talking about their experiences which helped usher in a new scientific era at “Medical Angels”, a free community forum led by people living with HIV on Wednesday, August 21 at 7PM at the Central Branch of the Seattle Public Library.
“If we’re going to cure HIV,” said Matt Chappell, one of the two men in a trial to have his immune cells edited to make them resistant to HIV, “this is how it’s going to happen.”
In 2014, scientists removed some of his blood cells, disabled a gene to help them resist HIV, and returned these “edited” cells to him. While this procedure did not cure Chappell, it did allow his body to suppress the virus without medications.
“I’ve been off medications now for five years,” he said.
Chappell’s case is rare. Most people in these early experiments still needed medicines to keep HIV suppressed. But even some of these people saw dramatic improvements.
Matt Sharp, a veteran of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, or ACT UP, was diagnosed with HIV in 1988. While taking HIV medicines, Sharp never saw his T cell count rise, despite fully suppressing the virus in his blood.
But after a single infusion of his own edited cells during the trial, Sharp saw his count jump to normal, healthy levels. Gene therapy brought long-term improvements to his immune-system health. Sharp thinks participation in the study was worth it, but he still takes daily pills to keep the virus under control.
These two men and the researcher who led these gene editing experiments will answer audience questions about these unique results during a public forum on August 21 hosted by members of the defeatHIV Community Advisory Board.
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The defeatHIV Community Advisory Board’s mission is to serve as a communication link and mobilize HIV cure researchers, their institutions and our communities to work together to cure HIV, ensuring that input from people living with HIV is accounted for in cure-related research of defeatHIV.
As a part of Fred Hutch, defeatHIV is an NIH-funded Martin Delaney Collaboratory working at the forefront of cell and gene therapy research to develop curative therapies for HIV. For more information, visit www.defeatHIV.org or follow @defeatHIV on Twitter.