In what could be a revival of hope for millions, an Australian scientist has claimed that HIV may adapt in such a way that it is no longer a life-threatening virus.
Speaking ahead of the launch of Adelaide University's Robinson Institute, Roger Short, a professor from Melbourne University's medicine faculty, said it was not in the virus's interest to kill its host.
"If we look into long term future, if humans survive that long, it seems likely that over time the virus, which mutates incredibly rapidly, will eventually adapt so it doesn't kill us," News.com.au quoted Short, as saying.
"Chimpanzees suffer no disease when infected with HIV, whereas for us it is lethal; can we learn from chimpanzees how to protect ourselves?" the expert added.
During the speech, Short urged his fellow researchers to help discover what currently protects sperm and eggs from contracting HIV.
"That is a key question," he said.
"And we need to know more about how gametes (mature reproductive cells) are formed," he added.
According to Short, HIV's evolution could enable the virus to get into reproductive cells - called germ cells - causing it to be passed on to new generations through DNA.
"Geneticists have been able to trace several inserts into our genes which must have come from viruses in the past, hundreds or thousands of years ago," he said.
"Once HIV gets into our sperm it really will have become part of us.
"Maybe some of the research that the (Robinson) institute does on all the stem cells ... will tell us what is so very special about germ cells that protects them from being infected by viruses," he added.