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Science: Curing HIV

March 11, 2013

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Today I’d like to talk about one of the greatest breakthroughs in science so far. It has been on the news all this week that a child born with HIV has been cured. This has been the first case of curing HIV since the Berlin man, a man who was cured of the HIV virus by receiving a bone transplant from an individual who was genetically resistant to HIV.

The child was presumed cured in August of 2012, however extensive testing has been done on her blood work to make sure there are no other possibilities. The results of the testing were presented at an Atlanta scientific conference on March 3rd 2013.

At two and a half years old, the Mississippi child may have set researchers on the right track to preventing these mother-child HIV events. Dr. Hannah Gay at University of Mississippi treated the girl 31 hours after her birth. Her mother has HIV but did not have prenatal care so the fetus was not exposed to antiviral drugs until after birth. To combat this disadvantage, Dr. Gay began treating the newborn with higher than usual doses of three HIV medications very quickly after birth. Dr. Gay had contact with the child until she was eighteen months, during this time the child was prescribed antiviral drug regiments and her blood work had no sign of the virus (which is usual for an infant on HIV medication). However, after eighteen months the child and mother stopped coming in and it was later found that the mother stopped giving the child her medication. Nearly a year later Dr. Gay and Mississippi health authorities found the child. When they checked her blood again they found no trace of HIV.

In 2010 there were 3.4 million children living with the HIV/AIDS virus, they contracted it from their mothers before or during birth (WHO). That number has only been increasing without hope; children are either dying from disease or forced to live an infected life, taking medicine with moderate to severe side effects and being ostracized by their peers.

HIV has been a pandemic for over thirty years, and this is the first sign of a cure. Clearly there is still much work to be done because the cure would only prevent HIV in children born with the disease; those who contract it later in life are still out of luck. However, this case gives new hope for the cause. Curing children is the first step in irradicating the disease, a step many thought would never be made due to the way the disease replicates and changes so spontaneously (an explination of the nature of HIV can be found in the video below). HIV is the number six killer in the world, it is an amazing and triumphant moment to have a promising cure for such a ruthless disease (WHO).

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/03/04/173258954/scientists-report-first-cure-of-hiv-in-a-child-say-its-a-game-changer

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs310/en/

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