HIV epidemic 'coming under control' in nation with top rate

Ray Weaver
July 26, 2017

The International AIDS Society conference organisers warned in a statement that "all of the scientific challenges still before us are threatened by a weakening resolve to fund HIV science".

A South African girl child became only the third to be effectively in remission from HIV, a study said.

The child was treated with HIV medications early in life, but has not received anti-HIV drugs for eight and a half years, according to the researchers, who reported the case today (July 24) at an global AIDS conference in Paris.

They can live relatively normally, providing they take antiretroviral drugs every day for the rest of their lives. "This has important policy implications", said Dr. Linda-Gail Bekker, deputy director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, and a co-leader of the conference. The treatment was stopped sometime between the age of five and seven.

"To our knowledge, this is the first reported case of sustained control of HIV in a child enrolled in a randomized trial of ART interruption following treatment early in infancy", said Avy Violari, co-leader of the study. "We don't really know what is the reason ..."

The results suggest a new way of managing the virus that causes Aids without the burden of having to take daily pills.

After that, doctors checked his health regularly as part of a larger study to see whether early ART could "reduce the need for lifelong treatment among newborns infected with HIV". If other countries worldwide were to fully achieve the 90-90-90 targets, it would translate into 73 per cent of all people living with HIV worldwide being virally suppressed.

"Our team has been keeping an eye on the viral loads and we're seeing that there's no detectable virus in the child's blood".

Ninety-five percent of HIV-positive pregnant women past year received drugs to prevent transmission of the virus to their offspring. The greater hope for treating HIV is in new medicines that would destroy only the infected cells, along with strong public health initiatives that help everyone access treatment for HIV, she added.

At the beginning of the treatment, the child had very high virus levels, which makes the achievement even more impressive.

It's not a healing, considering the HIV virus is still present, but it is so weak that it can not be multiplied or transmitted to another person even in the absence of a treatment. The child was placed on ART for 40 weeks soon after he was diagnosed with HIV, but that was the only treatment he received.

Despite much improved access to antiretroviral (ARV) drugs in sub-Saharan Africa, an "unacceptably" high number of people are developing AIDS and dying due to drug resistance, treatment being interrupted and late diagnoses, the medical charity said. Two previous cases involved the so-called "Mississippi Baby", who was in remission for over 2 years after receiving early treatment before the virus rebounded, and a French child who controlled the virus more than 11 years after stopping treatment.

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