Knowledge of IFN-antiviral activity against HIV infection dates from the first years of the AIDS epidemic. Recombinant IFN had an inhibitory effect on HIV and was not toxic to peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), and this finding was the basis for the design of clinical trials that evaluated the potential role of IFN-alpha as an inhibitor of HIV replication.
This review summarizes the history of IFN-alpha in the treatment of HIV infection with reviews of studies performed in different clinical settings; in the pre-highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) era, as part of a structured treatment interruption (STI) strategy, in acute HIV infection, as part of salvage therapy, and eliminating the HIV reservoir.
The role of IFN-alpha has been dismissed in the area of HIV therapy. For this reason, with the advent of HAART, which substantially reduced mortality and the appearance of AIDS, IFN-alpha ceased to be used as an antiretroviral agent in different strategies. In contrast, because of the promising results achieved with IFN-alpha therapy in eliminating the HIV viral reservoir, this may constitute the main research field for IFN-alpha in the HIV setting.