There seems to be a lot happening in the world of HIV and I wanted to take a minute to share this with you. My usual online navigation rarely brings me anything of interest, but the latest information on the baby who was cured from HIV was worth a double take.
Apparently in Mississippi a baby was born to an HIV positive mother who only found out about her status due to a rapid HIV test while she was in labor. The baby received a stronger than normal dose of HIV medications as the mother was not on any HIV meds throughout the pregnancy. Now the child is two years old and appears to be ‘functionally’ cured of HIV. Functionally cured? What does this even mean? If a person is functionally cured it means that the virus is suppressed, without the use of ongoing medications and treatments. Some of you may remember the story of the Berlin patient, TimothyRay Brown, who received a bone marrow transplant from a donor with genetic immunitiy to HIV(known as the Delta 32 mutation). As a result he is ‘cured’ from HIV and any segments of the virus still in his system are dead. Moving back to the story of the baby… There are a lot of questions still unanswered when it comes to this case.
Does the fact that the baby was born prematurely have an effect on HIV and treatment?
What, if any correlation is there due to the fact the mother was not on medication?
Is this a viable cure for HIV in newborns?
How can this be translated into a potential cure for people already living with HIV for several years?
Isn’t this just the same as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)?
Were/was the parent(s) provided with proper informed consent when it came to administering a combination therapy to the newborn?
What services (medical and financial) are in place to monitor the health of the child and family?
Is this really the first time that a combination therapy has been administered to a newborn? What happened in the other attempts to suppress the virus of newborns?
Why did the child stop receiving medication?
What other factors have been influencing the decision making of the parent(s)? Poverty, stigma, lack of accessible health care, rural setting, etc.
There are still several people who are skeptical when it comes to this ‘latest’ breakthrough. For some people, there is nothing new about this treatment and it does not appear that it will create a cure as quickly as we would like. Additionally, there are concerns about the portrayal of the mother in the media, as she has been blamed for not taking the steps to ensure that proper prenatal care was in place. Let’s not forget that the USA does not have the same standard of medical care that we have in Canada, and that there may be several factors which have not been released to the media. Before we are quick to blame the mother, it is important to look at the environment that an individual is living in. What is exciting is that HIV and the possibility of a cure are once again in the media’s spotlight. This can lead to changes in policy and opportunities for future education and discussion around HIV/AIDS. Sounds like this will be something to keep an eye out for in the world of HIV. Stay tuned to our Facebook page for all the latest news on HIV and updates on the ‘functionally cured’ baby.