Why isn’t there a viable cure for HIV or Cancer?

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In less than 1 year we developed 3 major vaccines approved to help prevent serious infection of Covid-19, and the various variants. Plus, other countries have their own versions of the vaccine. I recently had someone ask me this question: If we developed a vaccine for the Covid-19 so quickly, why don’t we have a viable vaccine or cure to HIV, or even cancer?

Let’s start with cancer because it’s completely different to a virus.

Cure for Cancer

According to the National Cancer Institute, cancer is a disease in which some of the body’s cells grow uncontrollably and spread to other parts of the body. Cancer is essentially caused by our DNA. The development of cancer is either spontaneous, environmental, or caused by genetics inherited from our parents[1].

  • It can’t be helped if cancer occurs by unlucky chance, or act of God.
  • Nor can it be helped if it’s familial, unless we delve into gene-editing and what is currently science fiction.
  • Environmental causes include: various chemicals, tobacco smoke, the sun, and several other materials.

So, avoidance of known carcinogens is key to avoiding cancer, unless you have the misfortune of genetics or are unlucky and your cells spontaneously start to divide uncontrollably.

We can do our best to treat cancer, but the current treatments are very crude and not only kill the cancer cells, but also may kill the patient. There are theoretical “cures” for cancer or treatments that should work without killing the patient. The most promising seems to be nanites, which target specific cancerous cells and destroys them. Unfortunately, with our current technology and infrastructure, using this particular cure isn’t practical and is prohibitively expensive.

There’s also the health of the medical industry to consider as well, but I’ll get into that after I cover the reason why we should have a cure or vaccine to HIV.

HIV Cure

According to Healthline, HIV is a virus. They also describe AIDS as being a condition caused by HIV[2], and refer to it as HIV stage 3. Let me rephrase that, similar to Covid-19, HIV is a virus. It is caused by a specific single-celled infectious disease…

There are several forms of treatments for HIV which are very effective at stopping the progress of the disease. But we are interested in a cure… A potential cure for HIV was found accidentally when treating leukemia patients with a stem cell transplant. Unfortunately, this is not a viable cure. There has to be a series of things that have to go right for the “cure” to happen.

  1. You need to find a doctor and facility willing to provide this type of experimental treatment.
  2. A stem cell transplant needs to be acquired from a donor who has a special genetic mutation blocking the attachment of HIV to cells. According to a related BBC news article, about 0.1% of people of European or Western Asian ancestry have this inherited mutation[3].
  3. The patient (host) also needs to suffer a complication known as graft-versus-host disease in order to acquire such immunity[4].
  4. Wait to see if the donor’s antibodies kill the HIV within the patient.

This is way too expensive and not very reliable if our goal is to cure a disease, we already have life sustaining treatments for. So why do we not have a cure? Nova (PBS) suggests that our own immune system will accidentally harbor the disease when the white blood cells go dormant after “winning” the battle against the disease. There is a chance the virus will come back out of hibernation, which prevents a cure from being viable[5].

These are valid points, but I would like to pose another theory: there is no will to finding a cure. Once we developed life-sustaining treatments, the search for the cure or vaccine just tapered off. We were able to create a vaccine for a disease that mutates very rapidly in less than a year! The vaccine stops the infection and allows the body to fight it off without hospitalization. Why can’t we do the same for HIV?

Why? Money…

Originally, companies invested money into finding a cure or to at least prevent people from dying so quickly. Somehow, that changed and the focus switched to a treatment plan instead of a curative plan. Why? Profits!

You can easily sell a treatment to a chronically sick person for the rest of his or her life. They literally have to buy your product, or they are going to die. There’s no profit to be had in curing a disease. If you get Gonorrhea, they stick you with an injection or give you a pill to cure it. That’s it! It’s a one and done treatment.

If you catch a cold or flu, which are endemic illnesses, you will be directed to take common over the counter medications to help alleviate the symptoms as your body fights off the sickness. The manufacturers know you will buy the treatment again next time you suffer the illness. And there will be a next time.

Same principle goes with flu vaccines. We’ve been told that Influenza changes so quickly there can’t be a vaccine or cure, but we are able to manufacture annual vaccines for the versions of Flu that are likely going to be out in the population each year. By the way, how do they know which versions of the flu are going to affect the population every year? 

Covid-19 appears to be mutating much faster than the flu, yet we seemed to have been able to create 3 vaccines which, by the latest indications, provide the same level of protection for the other variants. 

Big pharma has invested so much money and resources into treating these chronic diseases, it would be disastrous to provide a cure to cancer or HIV, or even a vaccine. The current medical establishment would suffer all across the nation. All those profits from selling HIV treatments, and preventative pills like “PrEP”, would evaporate as soon as the population was vaccinated against the disease. It’s simply not in their best interest to develop and release a viable cure for HIV or cancer. 

In respect to cancer, we have countless businesses specializing in providing treatment. A cure would shutter most of those, which would cause massive job losses. 

We’ve lost the will…

It’s not just economics thwarting a cure. As a nation, we’ve lost focus to find a cure for HIV. We’ve become contented in the fact that we can treat the disease for the rest of our natural lives (which can be 50+ years). A viable HIV vaccine or a cure to cancer would be rejoiced around the world, but would be a nightmare to pharmaceutical companies.

They have a customer who absolutely must buy their product, or die. 

That’s a Ferengi’s wet-dream! (Star Trek reference)

Below are a few related Ferengi Rules of Acquisition[6]:

#2 The best deal is the one that brings the most profit.

#162 Even in the worst of times someone turns a profit. 

#284 Deep down, everyone’s a Ferengi.

[1] National Cancer Institute. (n.d.). What Is Cancer? Retrieved from National Cancer Institute: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/understanding/what-is-cancer

[2] Healthline. (n.d.). HIV vs. AIDS: What’s the Difference? Retrieved from Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/health/hiv-aids/hiv-vs-aids

[3] BBC News. (2008, November 13). Bone marrow ‘cures HIV patient’. Retrieved from BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7726118.stm

[4] Wikipedia. (n.d.). Timothy Ray Brown. Retrieved from Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Ray_Brown

[5] Hill, A. (2014, August 27). Why There’s No HIV Cure Yet. Retrieved from PBS: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/missing-hiv-cure/

[6] Memory Beta. (n.d.). Retrieved from Memory Beta, non-canon Star Trek Wiki: https://memory-beta.fandom.com/wiki/Ferengi_Rules_of_Acquisition

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