Positively Alive


Prof. Ravindra Gupta - Fighting HIV Drug Resistance

Understanding how HIV works within cells is a key step in understanding how we're going to clear this virus.

HIV is a virus and it infects cells - it's a survival strategy. The reason it's so successful is that this is a virus that is very poor at making copies of its own genetic material and it makes a lot of mistakes when it copies itself. And so what it does is it uses mutation as a way of generating a lot of diversity within its genetic makeup in order to avoid the immune system, for example, and to make copies of itself that can't be targeted by our own host defenses.

In today’s episode, Professor Ravindra Gupta and I are talking about the case of the London Patient – the second adult worldwide, after the Berlin patient, that received full HIV remission. We also touch upon drug resistance, a global threat that is becoming more and more known.

Ravindra Gupta is Professor of Clinical Microbiology and Wellcome Trust Senior Fellow in Clinical Science at the University of Cambridge. He is also faculty at Africa Health Research Institute in Durban, South Africa, and he was formerly Professor at the University College London between 2016 - 2019.

Professor Gupta is an infectious diseases clinician, with a specific focus on HIV. His training includes public health and molecular virology, and the interplay between the restriction factor tetherin, and the HIV gene VPU. Most of his work, since, has focused on antiretroviral therapy for the treatment of HIV, and he has led a number of studies, both clinical and in vitro, aimed at addressing the global emerging threat of drug-resistant HIV.

So, listen to Episode 10 of Positively Alive, to learn about the reasons why the treatment used for the London Patient cannot be used at larger scales, to cure all the HIV positive people.

Questions I ask:

  • What do all these attempts teach you about the possibility of looking for new strategies to actually find a cure? (09:46)
  • You've mentioned gene therapy as a possible alternative for finding a cure for HIV. What's your exact standpoint on this? (15:37)
  • What can we tell people living with HIV and also people not living with HIV about the prospects of a cure? (17:30)
  • What does the future hold for you? (25:09)
  • Is there one last message you would have for people living with HIV? (26:08)

In this episode, you will learn:

  • The story of the HIV Positive person in the UK, who was the second adult worldwide to be cleared of HIV.  (03:36)
  • About the controversial case of the researcher from China who used gene editing on embryos to create babies who would be resistant to catching HIV. (16:13)
  • The meaning of drug resistance and the factors that lead to such resistance. (18:14)
  • The impact, worldwide, of developing drug resistance. (20:14)
  • Professor Ravindra’s opinion on HIV stigma. (23:16)

More Episodes


Jennifer Vaughan - An HIV Positive Mom That Didn’t Fit The Typical High-Risk Profile

The thought of “This can’t happen to me” is still prevalent in many HIV Negative people’s minds. But as we all learned over the many decades that this virus has been present in the world, HIV does not discriminate. Even if someone doesn’t fit the typical high-risk profile, they can still end up with HIV and AIDS - and this is the case of Jennifer, a 45-years-old mom.In today’s episode, I discuss with Jennifer how her life changed from the moment she found out she is HIV positive. She also puts an accent on the importance of disclosing your status, regardless of other people’s thoughts or misconceptions because living behind closed doors is a hard challenge that none of us should go through.Jennifer Vaughan went from an AIDS diagnosis to undetectable. She was diagnosed with HIV in February 2016 and since then, she has become an outspoken and active advocate for other HIV positive women. As a straight, white, middle-aged, non-drug-using mom, Jennifer did not fit the typical profile. At the time of her diagnosis, her T-Cell count was at 84, considering a normal count ranges between 500 - 1500. As a 45-year-old single mother of three, she thought her life was over, but in one month of treatment, Jennifer was living her life again, due to daily medication delivered in the form of a single pill.After some consideration, she chose to tell her story to her Facebook family and the response was incredible, receiving endless messages of love, concern, and support. In the hope that she could help others, Jennifer also did a Youtube video that went viral, and today, her Youtube Channel where she posts regularly, answering questions on a wide range of topics, has over 47,000 subscribers. The numerous comments and messages she receives daily confirm the difference she is making in the world of HIV.So, listen to Episode 15 of Positively Alive, to find out her entire story and how she fights against the spread of HIV and stigma, through advocacy.Questions I ask:You talked about your partner and his reaction. Can you describe a little bit how that was and did you, at any point, feel afraid that he may leave you? And how is the relationship with him today? (13:55)What about your children, Jennifer? How do you talk to them and how do they deal with the fact that their mother has HIV? (17:05)What do you find most challenging as an activist, Jennifer? (25:03)In the era of U=U, do you feel that more people will be disclosing their status or would you say it'll take probably years before we get to a situation where we have full normalization of HIV? (26:29)What would you like to see happen in the next 10 years, for the HIV community? (35:37)In this episode, you will learn:How Jennifer found out about her status and how this news impacted her life. (04:37)Why Jennifer decided to go public with her status and how she became the activist that she is today. (20:07)About Jennifer’s private Facebook Group for HIV positive women. (29:23)What the biggest challenges are, in the United States, today, regarding HIV. (34:18)Jennifer’s message to people living with HIV. (36:30)Connect with Jennifer:WebsiteYoutube ChannelPositively Alive Resources:WebsitePositively Alive Youtube ChannelInstagramFacebook GroupFacebook PageTwitterDonate

Patrick Reyntiens - Sharing Your HIV Status Early

Dealing with the news of being HIV positive is hard for every individual, and it is even harder to live with HIV when you don’t fully and honestly disclose your status so that you can find support and encouragement from the people around you – both HIV positive and negative.In today’s episode, I talk with Patrick about the benefits you have when you publicly admit that you are HIV positive, and about some of the places where you can find the support you need.Patrick Reyntiens received his HIV diagnosis in the 1980s and he rapidly became public with his status. Since then, he is educating people in schools or other organizations about HIV and the obstacles, oppositions, and trials of all kinds of struggles that accompany it, showing them how to live without secrets, discrimination or stigmatization.So, listen to Episode 14 of Positively Alive, to learn about Patrick’s views on HIV as a long-term survivor of AIDS.Questions I ask:Could you please tell us a little bit about your story and how you were able to deal with this devastating news at the time? (03:13)I can imagine that back in the '80s you have probably lost a lot of friends and people that you knew, from HIV and Aids. How did you deal with that fear yourself? (04:46)You said that you organize weekends, two times a year. What exactly happens during those weekends? (08:58)How has the response been to these weekends, from the people that attend? (10:36)What made you decide to go public so quickly and what were the initial reactions of the people around you? (18:17)What is your message to a person who gets diagnosed with HIV today, on how to best approach this new reality and then, how to continue living with HIV in the future? (30:04)In This Episode, You Will Learn:The importance of making contacts and connecting with people living with HIV. (06:13)The difference between taking your treatment in the ‘80s versus now. (11:59)What Patrick means when he says, “We should aim at normalizing HIV, but not at trivializing it.” (16:15)Patrick’s message for people who are thinking of getting public with their status. (21:06)The differences and the similarities between stigma in homosexual and heterosexual communities. (24:05)About Belgium’s largest Sexual Health Organization called, “Sensoa”. (27:06)Connect with Patrick:TwitterLinkedInSensoa

World AIDS Day – A Retrospective on The Actions Taken by the Belgian Government

Maggie De Block is the Minister of Social Affairs and Health since 2014. Under her mandate, a lot of progress has been made regarding HIV and AIDS.Belgium is one of the countries that understood – and still does - the needs of HIV patients and the problems they are facing, such as stigma and discrimination or having access to treatment. Therefore, the political authorities decided to be their voice and over the past 5 years, they made it possible for HIV positive individuals to get immediate access to drugs, they introduced self-tests in 2016, and they also founded HIV Centers where people could have anonymous HIV testing.One of the greatest accomplishments was creating the Positive Council, which is composed of HIV positive people that know the subject intimately, and they advise the Government on what measures should be taken and what the policy of HIV should be.So, listen to Episode 13 of Positively Alive, to learn about the progress that has been made, and what is still needed to be done to get closer to the world’s common goal of eradicating the HIV epidemic.Some Questions I ask:Could you please give an overview of what you believe are your major milestones since you took office in 2014? (03:30) What do you consider are the main challenges ahead? (07:10)How hopeful are you to find a cure? (08:17)Where would you position Belgium as a player, internationally, in the research towards finding a cure for HIV? (09:47)What does the future hold for you? (24:36)In this episode, you will learn:Her opinion on the debate regarding whether we’re close or not to end the epidemic of HIV. (12:04)The correlation between lower HIV infections and the increase of other sexually transmitted diseases like Syphilis, Gonorrhea, and Chlamydia. (13:15)Her opinion on adding the fourth 90% - the mental wellbeing – into the 90-90-90 objective. (15:29)About the stigma on HIV according to the Minister. (17:45)About the significance of U=U in the wider context of HIV in Belgium. (21:42)