HIV Cured In A Two-Year-Old
March 5, 2013

HIV Cured In A Two-Year-Old

I was writing on a completely unrelated subject when I saw that CNN had posted an article about a child being cured of HIV. I just love this; it makes me extremely happy after consistently seeing bad news. I was very compelled to write about such an uplifting article.

The story is that a two-year-old girl from Mississippi has been “functionally cured” of HIV. Functionally cured means that the presence of the virus is so small that lifelong treatment is unnecessary. Unlike the case of Magic Johnson, the famous basketball player, who contracted HIV/AIDS in the early 1990s, who is on heavy medication for life, she won’t need to continue on medications.

I am so happy that this child has the opportunity to live what would be essentially a normal life. All of the thanks should be given to Dr. Hannah Gay, whose specialty is HIV in Pediatrics. Choosing such a career path takes a lot of courage and determination in order to help children with such a terrible virus.

The mother wasn’t diagnosed HIV-positive until just before the delivery. Since the mother of the baby girl did not receive prenatal treatment, this increased the chance of transmission to the baby. With such an increased chance of the baby being HIV-positive they started treatment 30 hours after birth. Dr. Gay also made the decision to administer three antiretroviral drugs to the baby instead of just one antiretroviral drug.

We will never know if the extra drugs really affected the outcome, but in my opinion the practice paid off for the child. Dr. Gay has already stated that the timing, 30 hours after birth, deserves “more emphasis than the particular drugs or number of drugs used.” They are already planning to try this with other children to see if it makes a difference and should become a common practice for babies born to HIV-positive mothers.

It was confirmed days later that the baby was HIV-positive, and that it is likely that the baby became infected in the womb. Researchers made the connection years ago that treating an HIV-positive mother reduces the chances of the baby being infected as well.

Dr. Luzuriaga, a colleague of Dr. Gay, is quoted as saying “one hundred percent of (HIV-positive) moms will pass those antibodies, but in the absence of treatment, only 30% of moms will transmit the actual virus.” However, “HIV-positive mothers given appropriate treatment pass the virus on in less than 2% of cases.” This is a large difference, and when you complement treatment of the mother with early actions from the doctors, the chances of having a baby test HIV-positive is greatly reduced.

What is more surprising to me after all of this is that the child received her antiretroviral drugs for 15 months and then her mom just stopped giving them to her child with no explanation. It wasn’t until the authorities intervened that the toddler started to get her medicine again.

The toddler has still come back as “functionally cured” and hopefully this can lead to an actual cure. This is a big step forward in science, and it is exciting to see where things are headed on this front.

Image Credit: enciktep / Shutterstock

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