An Israeli cure for AIDS on the horizon?

(screenshot Israel National News/Channel 7)

Imagine the impact a cure for HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)/AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) would have on the 36.7 million sufferers worldwide, including 1.8 million infected children.

It seems that the elusive cure for the autoimmune disease may not be so far off after all. Israeli scientists are currently testing a drug that does not just subdue the disease, as with current retro-viral treatments, but actually destroys it, with the potential that once a patient is treated they are forever cured. Ben Gurion University’s Dr Ran Taube and his team at the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Genetics has been collaborating in the research along with Dr. Uri Rubio of Soroka University Medical Center.

The tests, carried out at Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot, saw a 95 to 97 percent reduction in the presence of HIV in blood from infected patients after eight days in a laboratory. The treatment being tested utilizes a protein called Gammora to exploit the properties of HIV, rather than directly fight against it.

HIV works by attacking the human immune system and in particular certain white blood cells called CD4s, whose function is to fight infection, so that sufferers become highly susceptible to all kinds of secondary illnesses. HIV enters and takes over these cells so that they cannot do their job, while reproducing itself and thus spreading throughout the body. What Gammora does is cause that reproduction process to enter a frenzied overdrive so that the cell cannot cope and thus self-destructs. Hence the presence of HIV is eliminated from the body.

The research team hopes that clinical trials will begin within a year and result in an affordable treatment. They are working with an Israeli start-up called Zion pharmaceuticals, who stress the long time-line requirement for drug development and approval.

The implications of a cure would be profound in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 60 percent of the world’s HIV patients reside with perhaps the least physical resources to be able to cope.In Israel 7,500 people suffer from AIDS, according to Rambam Medical Center.

Though the BBC reported last month that current claims of a cure are premature, Israeli discovery a cure would have a profound impact on the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) movement, which seeks to delegitimize, undermine and disempower Israel. BDS proponents would have trouble trying to rationalize the demonization of a life-giving cure.

One of the biggest moral dilemmas would surely impact the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, a key section of the BDS movement, raising the knotty question of whether to cooperate with Israeli medical universities and also whether to oppose global distribution of the drug.

It is poignant to note that South Africa, a leading supporter of the BDS movement that often calls Israel an ‘Apartheid State’ by comparing the situation of the Palestinians with the historic situation of the blacks in that country holds the world’s largest population of HIV/AIDS sufferers, an estimated 7 million people, or 17.3 percent of the population.

Should Israelis discover a cure, would the world recognize the divine and miraculous nature of the nascent country’s early victory over the global medical Goliath? Would Israel itself give God the glory or merely attribute the achievement to human ingenuity?

“Save us, Lord our God, and gather us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.” Psalm 106:47

AIDS is a creator of orphans and widows on an industrial scale. A cure for the disease would certainly enable such vulnerable individuals and communities to regain emotional, physical and economic capital and start to rebuild what is otherwise broken, downtrodden and hopeless.

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” Psalm 68:5