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South African Child May Be First Person ‘Cured’ of HIV

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A case of 9-year-old South African child diagnosed with HIV as a baby may be the first known case of somebody being “virtually cured” of the illness. The child, who had been treated during infancy but had stopped receiving anti-HIV drugs in 2008 was found to still be in remission, 8.5 years later. The news was reported at the 9th IAS Conference on HIV Science in Paris according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

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This is the third reported case of sustained HIV remission among children who received early, limited anti-HIV drugs. The first case was in 2010 when “Mississippi Baby” suppressed the virus for 27 months before reappearing in her blood. Another is a French HIV-infected child who received treatment for a couple of years before stopping and was able to control the virus for more than 11 years.

The challenge now to the medical community according to Dr. Anthony S. Fauci of NIAID is to discover how to ensure a much longer remission period among children infected with the virus.

“Further study is needed to learn how to induce long-term HIV remission in infected babies,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci. “However, this new case strengthens our hope that by treating HIV-infected children for a brief period beginning in infancy, we may be able to spare them the burden of life-long therapy and the health consequences of long-term immune activation typically associated with HIV disease,” he added.

The 9-year-old South African child with HIV was one of the infants who participated in the NIAID-funded Children with HIV Early Antiretroviral Therapy (CHER) clinical trial.

Prior to receiving treatment, the said child’s viral load was off the charts but it was dramatically reduced to undetectable levels after being on an antiretroviral therapy  for only a couple of weeks. At 40 weeks, clinicians already stopped treatment and simply monitored the condition.

The South African child’s more than 8 years of being in remission is indicating that the treatment given during infancy may be the solution to experiencing long-term HIV remission.

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