An 8-year-old girl in South Africa has been “virtually cured” of HIV after being given a ten-month course of antiretroviral medication as a baby.
The child was given the antiretroviral medication until she reached one year of age, and then was taken off the treatment as part of a medical trial.
In contrast to a traditional cure, where the virus is completely eradicated, the patient still has HIV in her system but it is weakened to the point that it can no longer replicate or be spread to sexual partners.
Some scientists refer to this type of sustained, drug-free remission as a “functional cure.” The patient has become only the third child to “beat” the AIDS virus into long-term remission.
AIDS expert Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) which funded the study, said, “This new case strengthens our hope that by treating HIV-infected children for a brief period beginning in infancy, we may be able to spare them the burden of life-long therapy.“
Fauci and other researchers hope that by treating people as soon as possible after infection, they can one day induce drug-free remission for long periods of time, perhaps for good.
Human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) is a spectrum of conditions caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Following initial infection, a person may not notice any symptoms or may experience a brief period of influenza-like illness. Typically, this is followed by a prolonged period with no symptoms. As the infection progresses, it interferes more with the immune system, increasing the risk of common infections like tuberculosis, as well as other opportunistic infections, and tumors that rarely affect people who have working immune systems.
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