A nine-year-old South African girl who was diagnosed with HIV shortly after her birth has now been in remission for more than eight years.
The child, whose identity is being protected, received a short-course treatment during her infancy for 40 weeks along, with 142 other babies.
The girl is the first HIV-infected child to go into remission in Africa and the third in the world. The child was part of the clinical trial conducted by the Perinatal HIV Research Unit. According to the new report, researchers believe aggressive treatment soon after infection could enable long-term remission and if it lasts, would be a form of cure.
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The recent clinical trial results which appear to have left the child with no need for medication has caught experts by surprise and were presented at a conference in Paris. The study was sponsored by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which previously found that early treatment helped babies survive.
NIAID Director Antony S Fauci reportedly said a further study was needed to learn how to induce long-term HIV remission in infected babies. “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 was quoted.
In the study, HIV-infected infants were randomly assigned to receive either early or deferred antiretroviral therapy. The child’s blood showed very high levels of HIV before the treatment began, but at the end of the treatment, results indicated the viral load had been suppressed to undetectable levels.
This case is extremely rare and experts have stressed it does not suggest a simple path to a future cure for Aids. The Independent reports that the President of International Aids Society, Linda-Gail Bekker indicated the study raises the interesting notion that maybe treatment was not for life, but was clearly a rare phenomenon. “It’s a case that raises more questions than it necessarily answers,” she said.