Not wanting to plunge back into a hospital setting, he opted to work for a few days a week in an HIV virology laboratory. After a few years of working with patients, he finally had more time to spend on research.
His research laboratory now employs 20 people. Recently, his team completed a study with 11 people living with HIV. It involved pausing antiretroviral therapy so that scientists could observe viral rebound.
His team made sure that the eight to nine procedures would be minimally invasive and carried out in a day, so that the volunteers could return to work after two days. Two patterns surfaced from the study. Viral rebound, which took 15—36 days, occurs randomly.
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The researchers found different viruses, showing that they are not all the same single virus that has emerged from a reservoir, but rather multiple re-emergent events. In his opinion, the research highlights the many challenges of the virus, since HIV can rebound from a wide range of reservoirs. Mr Vandekerckhove remains very positive, pointing to how gene therapy used to be science fiction but is now a reality.
In his mind, a cure is one of the many facets of HIV that we cannot overlook. Antiretroviral therapy ART is a combination of medicines that slows down the effects of HIV in your body and can help you stay healthy for many years. If you stop treatment your viral load can go up, making it possible to pass HIV to others you have sex with.
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Paying attention to your lifestyle can help you stay healthy too. This means eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising, learning how to deal with stress, and avoiding alcohol, smoking, and drugs. Your local Planned Parenthood health center can help you get the treatment you need.
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