Ray of Hope for HIV-positive Infants

Antiretroviral therapy has been known to manage HIV. This role of the medication has turned this kind of drugs to be anti-HIV treatment that is continuously taken throughout the lifetime of the patients. However, new revelations could change this. Researchers reported at the ninth international AIDS Society conference in Paris that signs of drug-free remissions were observed in a 9-year-old child living with HIV.

According to the report, for the past eight and a half years, the child, who is from South Africa, registered remission after new anti-HIV treatment. In fact, this is not the first time the observation has been made. There have been two other instances where prolonged HIV remissions have been observed after the treatment. New findings provide hope for the possibility of treatment of the virus in infants. This treatment would eliminate the need for lifelong ARVs treatment if interventions are made early enough.

The head of pediatric research at Perinatal HIV Research Unit that operates within University of the Witwatersrand Dr. Avy Violari made an announcement. According to Dr. Avy, research on the case commenced in 2007 after the 32-day-old child was diagnosed with HIV. Following the diagnosis, the child was enrolled at the facility for clinical trials. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) funded the trials. The enrolment followed a random selection of infants that were administered the anti-HIV treatment for some time (40 weeks) after which the medication was stopped.

Out of the 143 selected infants, the South African child registered remission trends after the medication was stopped. The child’s body continued to reduce the level of the virus within it without the intervention of the medication. This suggests the possibility of interrupted treatment of HIV with anti-HIV medication but continued management of the disease.

HIV is an immune suppressing disease a cure for which has not been found. The disease is sexually transmitted and people usually get infected through exchange of body fluids. Infected mothers often transmit the disease to their child if the delivery is not closely monitored and controlled. AIDS – the progressed stage of HIV – kills millions of people in Africa and other poor communities across the world. South Africa is one of the most affected countries with high prevalence levels. Antiretroviral drugs have been used to manage the disease and increase the life expectancy of the affected people by up to 20 years. However, the HIV levels in blood are only reduced when the patient is on medication, and the virus starts to develop quickly again as soon as the patient stops taking medication.