Once again the media runs with a headline without checking their facts. On Sunday researchers announced a newborn baby had been “cured” of HIV for the first time.
HIV is the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome or AIDS. The newborn girl acquired the infection from her mother while she was still in the womb.
Normally, pregnant women who test HIV positive are given a cocktail of drugs (antiretroviral therapy) to prevent HIV transmission to their fetus.
Using this therapy, doctors have been very successful in preventing most cases of HIV transmission from mothers to newborns for many years now.
In the Mississippi case, the mother’s HIV infection was not known until she was about due to deliver. So antiretroviral therapy was initiated very late in the third trimester.
In presenting her research at the CDC in Atlanta, Dr. Hannah Gay, a pediatric HIV specialist at Batson Children’s Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi, says she began antiviral drug treatment on the neonate within 30 hours of her birth, before her blood test results had come back to confirm the diagnosis.
When the newborn’s HIV results came back positive, her viral load was already declining (due to the drugs) until the HIV virus was undetectable in her bloodstream 29 days after her birth.
According to researchers, this is not a complete cure; it is only a “functional cure,” meaning the newborn’s HIV viral load is not completely cleared.
The viral load is simply too low to be detected in the baby’s bloodstream. That means the virus can be hiding or lying dormant in her organs.
The hospital claims the newborn girl will not need lifelong antiviral treatment. But that’s not exactly true either, since the virus can begin replicating itself in her body later on in life.
She will need follow-up care, and maybe one viral suppression drug, to make sure the virus continues to lie dormant in her body.
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Photo: File photo found on the Internet