NPR: An HIV Breakthrough
Breaking news on March 4, 2013: A 2-year-old Mississippi toddler appears to be the second case of a documented HIV cure.
Let’s go over some basic HIV/AIDS statistics:
- HIV is the virus that causes AIDS
- Every year 2.5 million people join the 34 million already infected with HIV
- 300,000 babies born with HIV each year
- AIDS has been a world-wide epidemic for 32 years
A routine test showed that the baby girl’s mother was indeed positive for HIV, putting the child at extremely high risk for contracting it herself. Due to her high risk of infection she was transfered to a hospital under the care of an infectious disease specialist.
The infectious disease specialist put the baby on three antiviral drugs used to treat HIV at higher doses than usual.
Of course there is some skepticism from AIDS researchers and the community. She was treated very early with these antiviral drugs. Most HIV patients do not start these powerful drugs until years after infection. The baby was treated aggressively with this regimen within 31 hours of birth. Researchers believe this aggressive treatment likely cured the toddler.
Dr. Deborah Persaud, the lead on the cure report, of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center says this is “proof of principle that we can cure HIV infection.”
Also, two weeks ago in France, researchers reported 14 more cases of a “functional cure.” These 14 patients with HIV were also treated early with strong doses of medications.
Bottom line: we aren’t there just yet but this is a huge breakthrough! Further studies are being planned to test this new regimen, and the Mississippi baby will continue to be monitored for her HIV status. What about the people with established infections? Prevention is still what we need to focus on.
The real issues are still the same: cost and access to treatment and preventing mother-to-child transmission.
Read further into this case in NPR’s report.