A child has been cured of HIV, according to an announcement made by Doctors on Sunday. This will make the little girl only the second person in history to have been known to be cured of the virus that causes AIDS since the virus emerged on the scene 32 years ago.
The first person cured was Timothy Brown, known as the Berlin patient, a middle-aged man with leukemia who received a bone-marrow transplant from a donor genetically resistant to H.I.V. infection.
Scientists, at a conference in Atlanta presented details of the case last Sunday. They won’t name the little girl but say that she is now 2 ½ years old.
Hannah Gay, associate professor at the University of Mississippi, says of the girl who was born in rural Mississippi and was treated 30 hours after birth with antiretroviral drugs, “I’m sort of holding my breath that this child’s virus doesn’t come back in the future. I’m certainly very hopeful that it will produce studies that will show us a way to cure other babies in the future.”
Deborah Persaud, co-author of the report and associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center said, “For pediatrics, this is our Timothy Brown. It’s proof of principle that we can cure H.I.V. infection if we can replicate this case.”
An estimated 330,000 children throughout the world are infected with HIV every year, although only a small number are infected in the U.S. Until this recent breakthrough, the children would have had to have lifetime treatment to prevent the HIV virus from developing into full-blown AIDS.
However, some experts are not thoroughly convinced that the girl had really been infected. Dr. Daniel R. Kuritzkes, chief of infectious diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston said, “The one uncertainty is really definitive evidence that the child was indeed infected.”
Dr. Persaud said that there was little doubt that the child experienced what she called a “functional cure.”
According to information being released, however, the mother and girl went missing when the girl was about 18 months old. Social services were brought in to help find them by doctors.
According to Gay, five months after the girl and mother disappeared, they returned, and the little girl had taken no medication during the time of absence. Doctor’s expected to find that she showed high levels of HIV, but astonishingly, she appeared in good health, with almost no detectable level of the infection. The odd set of circumstances leaves some in the scientific community skeptical about the case.