Doctors cure an HIV-positive baby: What it means for the fight against AIDS

Worldwide, about 1,000 babies are born with HIV each day. There's new reason to be hopeful about their future

Dr. Deborah Persaud of Johns Hopkins' Children's Center
(Image credit: AP Photo/Johns Hopkins Medicine)

On Sunday night, medical researchers reported that a girl born HIV-positive had been "functionally cured." If true, and repeatable, this would be an absolutely enormous breakthrough in AIDS research, especially for sub-Saharan Africa, which has a high infant infection rate. Those are some pretty important ifs, though. Here's the story:

Two and a half years ago, a woman arrived at a rural Mississippi hospital in labor, unaware that she was infected with HIV and reportedly having received no prenatal care. The baby girl was born prematurely, and doctors tested her for HIV. But before the tests even came back positive, doctors put the baby on an aggressive treatment of three anti-retroviral drugs, starting 30 hours after birth. After about a month, the girl's viral levels had dropped to the level of being almost undetectable. After 15 months the treatment became sporadic, and after 18 months, the mother stopped bringing the girl in altogether, meaning the medication stopped. Doctors expected the level of HIV to shoot up after the treatment ended, but when the girl returned five months later, the virus was still undetectable.

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Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.