CHICAGO -- Some people who become infected with HIV may remain healthy and never develop AIDS, according to research presented yesterday in the Hektoen Institute for Medical Research of Cook County Hospital.
Luc Montagnier, the head of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said he and fellow researchers had been following the progress of several people who were infected with HIV as long as 10 years ago and still do not show any breakdown in their immune systems.
"We are hopeful that these people will not develop AIDS," said Mr. Montagnier, who discovered HIV, human immunodeficiency virus, in 1983. "And because of them, we can no longer say that HIV infection is always a death sentence."
Dr. Whitney Addington, president of the Chicago Board of Health, said such long-term survivors "have been observed by many clinicians, but the numbers are small. Montagnier seems to have seen more of them than we have. That could be very encouraging."
He is looking for ways to block the progression from HIV infection to an active case of AIDS. Monitoring the immune systems of long-term survivors to discover what is protecting them is one possible avenue to finding ways to control HIV infection.
"I believe a time will come when we can prevent HIV infection from progressing to AIDS," Mr. Montagnier said. "The person will probably always be infected with HIV, because it is a retrovirus (which never leaves the body once it takes root), but someday we will be able to prevent it from causing problems."
Dr. Renslow Sherer, director of the Cook County HIV Primary Care Center that co-sponsored Mr. Montagnier's visit, said Mr. Montagnier's research could lead physicians to more effective treatments for AIDS patients.