South African girl becomes third child with HIV in remission, says study

Joy Montgomery
July 26, 2017

On Sunday Organisers of an worldwide HIV science conference in a global HIV meeting urged the United States government, a major donor of AIDS research and treatment programmes, to "stay engaged" even as President Donald Trump has threatened cuts.

While the HIV prevalence takes a long time to shift, the massive scale-up of prevention and treatments efforts have greatly reduced the number of new infections in the country.

A South African child has been in remission from HIV, without signs or symptoms of the active virus for nearly a decade, following a short treatment administered shortly after birth.

Researchers say they hope to learn from the case of the child, born in South Africa, to save others from having to take powerful daily medication as they are growing up and for the rest of their lives.

"This is the highest recorded cases ever since 1984", the report said.

The child has been in remission since eight and half years giving hope to millions of a possible new HIV cure.

"Early HIV therapy, in both children and adults, has been shown to reduce some of the damage to the immune system that HIV causes in the first few weeks and months of infection", Dr. Michael Brady, medical director of the Terrence Higgins Trust who was not directly involved in the study, told The Independent. The treatment was stopped sometime between the age of five and seven.

Commenting on the case of the South African baby, Dr Avy Violari, the head of paediatric research at the Perinal HIV Research Unit in Johannesburg, said, "We don't believe that antiretroviral therapy alone can lead to remission".

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Cabotegravir is experimental; rilpivirine is sold now as Edurant and used in combination with other drugs for treating certain types of HIV patients.

Although HIV can not be detected in the child's body, it has been detected in their immune cells.

Over the past eight years, the child received no further treatments or antiretroviral medicine.

In the latest case, the child had very high levels of HIV in the blood, but the early treatment was able to suppress the virus to undetectable levels.

ART not only stops HIV from replicating and attacking a patient's immune system, but also curbs its spread to sexual partners.

Two similar cases have been reported of long-term HIV remission in a child after early, limited treatment with antiretroviral drugs. In a study sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the girl began taking HIV drugs when she was only two months old. However, in July 2014, they announced the virus had re-emerged.

At a Monday presentation during an global AIDS conference in Paris, researchers working on the unique case asserted that the child's ongoing health may signal a shift in the way that those who still have the disease are treated - including the likelihood of controlling HIV without a lifelong regimen of exorbitantly expensive pharmaceutical cocktails. Recent tests also have detected no evidence of HIV infection beyond a small reservoir of virus and no symptoms of HIV infection, according to the NIH.

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