The international scientific research community appears to be getting one step closer to finding a cure to the HIV and AIDS epidemic that has cost roughly 35 million lives. A human trial of a treatment designed to effectively cure an infected body of HIV began in New York City, as well as in Germany and Denmark this week.

The small-scale trial is just the latest in a series of vaccination research with promising potential, according to experts. The international team of researchers are using a “shock and kill” treatment supported by data from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Patients will use standard antiretroviral therapy, along with immune boosters, targeting specific pockets of immune cells where the viruses goes undetected while reproducing itself. A team of researchers from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) will also begin a similar trial in which the effectiveness of using an IV drip or oral pill is the more effective in delivering drugs to infected areas of HIV patient’s bodies.  

Dr. Rowena Johnston, vice-president of the Foundation for AIDS Research, told science news website KQED he’s hopeful for a cure following a presentation on UCLA’s shock and kill study findings in test tube and animal experiments.

"I feel a very real sense of optimism based on the evidence that we know a cure can be achieved," Dr. Johnston said. "There is a fundamental understanding we have now of the barriers between us and a cure, and how we go about to solving the problems."

As scientific breakthroughs in our understanding of how HIV develops in the body continue, vaccine trials in human patients are beginning across the globe. One trial in South Africa, where an estimated 7 million people suffer from HIV and AIDS, is hoping to create the first-ever licensed HIV vaccine. One of the largest human trials of its kind, researchers will follow over 5,000 sexually active South Africans who use the experimental vaccination.

Dec. 1 marked World AIDS Day, an international day of awareness and support toward finding a cure against the global crisis.