HIV scientists believed they were on the path toward a cure for AIDS when an infected newborn showed no signs of the virus after a new treatment. Years later, the illness has been detected again.

The Guardian reports:

The Mississippi baby was the poster child of the “hunt for a cure”, which is the mantra scientists and campaigners have adopted since more widely available drugs stemmed the rise in the Aids pandemic and reduced the sense of emergency. We have never known her name, but the child treated in the Jackson Memorial Hospital in Mississippi appeared to be living proof that it was possible to outwit the virus. Studies have been planned to test the treatment she received in other babies. Now there will have to be a rethink. Throughout the HIV community, there will be real dismay.

Pregnant women with HIV are put on antiretroviral drugs to suppress the virus in their blood, for their own health and to protect their baby. In North America and Europe, the vast majority of babies with HIV-positive mothers are born free of the virus as a result. The Mississippi baby’s mother, however, had never attended an antenatal clinic. Dr Hannah Gay, a paediatric HIV consultant at the hospital, took the decision to put the baby on a particularly strong course of antiretroviral drugs within 30 hours of the birth, before she even had any HIV test results. This was an unusual procedure, but sure enough, when the test results came back, they confirmed HIV in the baby.

The child continued to be given antiretroviral drugs for 18 months, when doctors lost contact with her. Ten months later, mother and daughter reappeared. When tests were done, there was no sign of the virus anywhere in the girl’s body. A buzz of amazement and excitement went around the world. But now, at nearly four years old, the regular tests to which the child has been subjected have shown traces of the virus once again. She is no longer in remission and has been put back on treatment.

Read more here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.


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