In an announcement that Harvard surgeon Atul Gawande called “huge, stunning, and world-changing,” doctors in Mississippi said that for the first time a baby born with HIV was cured and currently has no signs of infection. Following an aggressive treatment that started when the baby was only 30 hours old, attending physician Dr. Hannah Gay sought to reduce the initial viral load in the bloodstream, which the baby contracted in the womb and was verified by several independent tests.
At 18 months, the mother stopped taking the child to the clinic for treatment. In a follow-up visit a year later, doctors expected the child to have high viral count, but instead was deemed functionally cured of HIV. While the circumstances will be difficult to replicate, the difference may lie in aggressively treating HIV-positive children at birth using a triple cocktail of antiretrovirals, instead of a prophylaxis of one drug that is more commonly used in many clinical settings.
In the following clip from the Chautauqua Institution, Stephen Lewis, co-director of AIDS-Free World, explains the critical importance of reducing HIV/AIDS from mother to children and offers a few sobering statistics on how many children throughout the world are born HIV positive.