I was surprised to awake this morning to headlines of a baby being cured from HIV. Is it just a joke, something that risky individuals will use as a reason to continue their risky behaviour or is it finally true. I am a huge advocate for HIV Awareness/Prevention and stopping the mistreatment/stereotyping of HIV+ individuals so my heart has been fluttering all morning with this news. I’m copying some of the information that I’ve read about the latest in this breaking development and more of my thoughts are listed below.
WASHINGTON — A baby born with the virus that causes AIDS appears to have been cured, scientists announced Sunday, describing the case of a child from Mississippi who’s now 2 1/2 and has been off medication for about a year with no signs of infection.
There’s no guarantee the child will remain healthy, although sophisticated testing uncovered just traces of the virus’ genetic material still lingering. If so, it would mark only the world’s second reported cure.
Specialists say Sunday’s announcement, at a major AIDS meeting in Atlanta, offers promising clues for efforts to eliminate HIV infection in children, especially in AIDS-plagued African countries where too many babies are born with the virus.
A doctor gave this baby faster and stronger treatment than is usual, starting a three-drug infusion within 30 hours of birth. That was before tests confirmed the infant was infected and not just at risk from a mother whose HIV wasn’t diagnosed until she was in labor.
“I just felt like this baby was at higher-than-normal risk, and deserved our best shot,” Dr. Hannah Gay, a pediatric HIV specialist at the University of Mississippi, said in an interview.
That fast action apparently knocked out HIV in the baby’s blood before it could form hideouts in the body. Those so-called reservoirs of dormant cells usually rapidly reinfect anyone who stops medication, said Dr. Deborah Persaud of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. She led the investigation that deemed the child “functionally cured,” meaning in long-term remission even if all traces of the virus haven’t been completely eradicated.
Now I have to admit that when I see “long-term remission” it gives me pause. I have a few questions fluttering about in this inquisitive brain of mine.
Does this mean that the child will still be able to pass on the virus to other individuals?
What are the chances of it coming back. Like cancer, we know that things do not always stay in remission.
What are the effects of the medication if any?
Is there a posibility that this child will pass on the virus to his/her offspring?
Continued from the news story…
The Mississippi case shows “there may be different cures for different populations of HIV-infected people,” said Dr. Rowena Johnston of amFAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research. That group funded Persaud’s team to explore possible cases of pediatric cures.
It also suggests that scientists should look back at other children who’ve been treated since shortly after birth, including some reports of possible cures in the late 1990s that were dismissed at the time, said Dr. Steven Deeks of the University of California, San Francisco, who also has seen the findings.
“This will likely inspire the field, make people more optimistic that this is possible,” he said.
In the Mississippi case, the mother had no prenatal care when she came to a rural emergency room in advanced labor. A rapid test detected HIV. In such cases, doctors typically give the newborn low-dose medication in hopes of preventing HIV from taking root. But the small hospital didn’t have the proper liquid kind, and sent the infant to Gay’s medical center. She gave the baby higher treatment-level doses.
The child responded well through age 18 months, when the family temporarily quit returning and stopped treatment, researchers said. When they returned several months later, remarkably, Gay’s standard tests detected no virus in the child’s blood.
Ten months after treatment stopped, a battery of super-sensitive tests at half a dozen laboratories found no sign of the virus’ return. There were only some remnants of genetic material that don’t appear able to replicate, Persaud said.
In Mississippi, Gay gives the child a check-up every few months: “I just check for the virus and keep praying that it stays gone.”
The mother’s HIV is being controlled with medication and she is “quite excited for her child,” Gay added.
Keeping my fingers crossed & my research glasses on.