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Is AIDS the only incurable disease?

At this time, HIV/AIDS cannot be cured with medicines, but this is also true of many other kinds of infections. For example, there are no medicines that can cure the common cold. However, unlike HIV/AIDS, your body’s immune system can fight off the viruses that cause it. Another example is cold sores, also known as fever blisters. Although there are medicines that can make cold sores heal faster, the virus that causes them (called herpes simplex) never completely leaves your body. This is why cold sores keep coming back from time to time, usually for many years.

There are also many kinds of diseases that are not caused by infections. Many of these can be treated with medicines so that people who have them feel better or live longer, but this does not mean that they are cured. For example, diabetes (high blood sugar) can be improved by diet and exercise, and also by medicines such as insulin. However, diabetes is not cured completely by any of these treatments. Patients who have diabetes need to stick to their diets and keep taking their medicines, or the symptoms of diabetes come back.

Some infections that used to be incurable now can be cured with medicines. Hepatitis B, a liver infection, can be cured in some cases using a combination of medicines that fight the virus and stimulate the body’s immune system. Unfortunately, we don’t know today whether a similar cure for HIV/AIDS will ever be discovered, or how long it might take.


Jeffrey Snedeker

  • Pediatrician and Infectious Diseases Specialist
  • Northeast Pediatrics/Cayuga Medical Center at Ithaca/Upstate Medical University

Medical School, University of Wisconsin
Classical organ and piano, cross-country skiing

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