A recent feature on ScienceDaily.com reports an exciting development in the search of a total cure for HIV--a child from Mississippi who was born with the infection has been given a clean bill of health after being given antiretroviral therapy.
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a slow-replicating virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), which then leads to immune system failure. Antiretroviral therapy, on the other hand, ceases the progression of HIV with the use of three different drugs which stop the virus from replicating. Although this has long been the prescribed treatment to halt the disease from spreading as well as to avoid transmission, this is the first time that a child born with HIV has been reported to have been cured by it.
Dr. Rowena Johnston, American Foundation for AIDS Research President and Director of Research explains, "Given that this cure appears to have been achieved by antiretroviral therapy alone, it is also imperative that we learn more about a newborn's immune system, how it differs from an adult's, and what factors made it possible for the child to be cured."
An adult case was also reported back in 2006, when Timothy Brown developed leukemia while undergoing HIV treatment. A stem-cell transplant from a person with a genetic mutation that causes him to be immune to the infection cured both his leukemia and his HIV. The difference in treatment in both cases is causing scientists to think that "different populations of HIV-positive people may be cured in different ways."
Although an immediate magic pill can't be promised to cure HIV, this case highlights the need to immediately identify HIV-positive pregnant women. Early detection may help children of patients recover quickly from the infection. Moreover, awareness about the disease is a must--immediately seek treatment if you have been exposed to sexually-transmitted diseases and always practice safe sex.
(Photo by anqa via Flickr Creative Commons)