The child, whose identity is being protected, was born in 2007 and caught the virus from the mother, the BBC reported. The child was put on a clinical trial at 9 weeks old and received antiretroviral therapy for 40 weeks. The child was one of 143 children to receive the short course of drugs; another received 96 weeks’ worth of treatment. At the time, the use of ART for treating children with HIV was not standard practice.
“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 of the Perinatal HIV Research Unit of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, according to The Guardian. Violari presented the case study Monday to the International AIDS Society Conference in Paris.
“Technically, this baby is not totally cured of HIV, but it is certainly what is referred to as remission, in that there’s no virus circulating in the blood, and there is a normal immune system according to the range for children of their age,” says Sarah Fidler, speaking on behalf of the British HIV Association to Newsweek.
Fidler says it is important that HIV-positive people do not stop taking antiretroviral drugs as a result of the case. Usually, children remain on ART throughout their life and do not stop after a set period. Fidler says the only reason the South African 9-year-old did so is because the child was part of a randomized trial.
“It is certainly not to be taken from this one person that we would then recommend that lots of people who’ve been treated since birth should think about stopping therapy. That’s definitely not the message to be taken from one case,” says Fidler, a reader and honorary consultant physician in HIV at Imperial College London.
She says that eradicating HIV transmission from mothers to children must be a global priority. About 150,000 children became infected with HIV in 2015; transmission rates from mother to child can be as high as 45 percent if pregnant women are not provided with ART.