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Child Born With HIV Reportedly Cured

Brianna Sacks |
March 4, 2013 | 8:38 p.m. PST

Editor At Large

For the first time in the nearly 32 year fight against HIV and AIDS, doctors are reporting that a little girl born with with the disease has been functionally cured.

Just barely 2 1/2 years old, the Mississippi toddler is only the second person in the world to have been cured of HIV. The first, Timothy Ray Brown, lives in San Francisco and says he is still free of the disease.

A “functional cure” means there is almost no trace of the virus, and lifelong treatment is not necessary, a rare case for most infected with HIV.

Scientists made the announcement at the 2013 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta.

The child is healthy, and tests show only a slight trace of HIV in her blood stream thanks to immediate, aggressive antivirals given within 31 hours of birth. Doctors say that is much faster than most HIV positive infants receive treatment, and that could be the game changer.

Though fewer than 130 children are born with HIV in the U.S. each year, this is not the case for other parts of the world, particularly in

(HIV Prevelance-15-49 year olds/2008 UNAIDS Report, Creative Commons)
(HIV Prevelance-15-49 year olds/2008 UNAIDS Report, Creative Commons)
sub-Saharan Africa.  NPR reported that an estimated 330,000 children around the world are born with HIV or get infected in early infancy every year. And until now, these children were thought to be infected for life.

Doctors hope this toddler’s miraculous recovery will open a door to a cure for the thousands of children born every day with the disease.

The child was born in rural Mississippi to a mother who received no pre-natal care and was not diagnosed as HIV positive until she was in labor. Doctors immediately realized the newborn had a high chance of infection, and decided to begin treatment just a day after birth.

Dr. Hannah Gay, the pediatric HIV specialist at the University of Mississippi Center, decided to give the newborn three antiviral drugs as opposed to the normal, singular dosage even before blood tests confirmed she was HIV-positive, Gay told the Los Angeles Times.

"We didn't have the opportunity to treat the mom during the pregnancy as we would like to be able do to prevent transmission to the baby," Gay told CNN.

The baby responded immediately. Over the next few months, doctors reported standard tests detected no virus in her blood, which is normal for that type of antiviral treatment and proved the intense regimen was working.

There have been speculations as to whether or not the baby was actually infected. However the researches that examined her case with extensive testing say she did have the virus.

From the L.A Times:

       "Is it possible the child was not infected? Yes. Is it likely? No," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases. The virus probably could not have remained in the baby's body as long as it had if she had not been infected, he said.

But after 18 months or so, the child stopped receiving treatment

Gay said her mother stopped bringing her in for checkups, and the two eventually disappeared.

But after tracking the pair down with the help of state health authorities, Gay was shocked.

After nearly seven months without any treatment, the little girl’s blood work showed no signs of the virus. Additionally, the child will be able to live a life free of toxic, harmful and expensive anti-viral drugs, an astonishing find that has electrified scientists and researching searching for a cure.

Scientists are now discussing studies to see if an early, aggressive antiviral regimen can cure other children born with HIV. And with  300,000 children born with HIV in 2011, the research will be a top-priority.

But scientists say the main hurdle will be figuring out when to stop the antiviral drugs deliberately, a choice Dr. Gay did not even plan on making in Mississippi.

Read the whole story at NPR and the Los Angeles Times.



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