Nine-year old South African child’s unique case could mean a cure for HIV

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A nine-year old South African child’s miraculous HIV remission could possibly mean the answer to a cure that has eluded doctors across the world for years. This anonymous child caught the infection from his/her mother at birth and was given treatment shortly after birth as part of a clinical trial. Doctors have stopped the treatment 40 weeks after birth and this child has now gone eight and a half years without showing any signs or symptoms of an active HIV virus.

Medical professionals believe that an understanding of how the child is protected against the virus could lead to the development of a new drug or even vaccine for the virus. This form of rapid treatment has been tested only twice in the past.

The ‘Mississippi Baby’ received treatment for HIV within 30 hours of birth and went 27 months without the treatment before signs of the virus returned. The other case is one of a patient in France who has gone more than 11 years without treatment.

Majority of HIV patients suffer an increase in the amount of the virus circulating the body when ceasing treatment, however, this child is a unique case that contradicts this.

Dr Avy Violari, the head of paediatric research at the Perinal HIV Research Unit in Johannesburg stated that she did not believe that antiretroviral therapy alone could lead to remission and believe that the reason this child achieved remission had to be genetic or immune related. The team in Johannesburg conducted a study along with the UK’s MRC Clinical Trials Unit.

According to a UNAIDS report, in 2015, there were 7 million recorded people living with HIV in South Africa alone. Globally, 1 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2016 and 76.1 million people have become infected with HIV since the start of the epidemic.

Medical professionals and researchers believe that there is still a lot to be learned from this case. The fact remains that there are around 36.7 million people across the globe still battling with HIV today.

No one can know what this phenomenon will reveal to doctors and researchers, but hope for a cure for this destructive virus is still high across the world.

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