By now many of you may have heard the exciting news that
broke this weekend of a baby born HIV-positive that has reportedly been
The story began in the fall of 2010 in a rural Mississippi
hospital, when a young pregnant woman was admitted prematurely in labor.
She had never had a prenatal visit and had no idea she was
living with HIV until a test given there indicated she might be positive.
HIV treatment after
About 30 hours after birth, the infant was transferred to
the University of Mississippi Medical Center where the doctor administered HIV
tests and discovered the child, too, had been infected. This is where the exciting and potentially
life-changing news begins.
Rather than waiting until confirmation that the HIV tests
were positive, the doctor began treating the baby aggressively with a three
drug antiretroviral regimen, a treatment that continued for 18 months.
Now 2 1Ž2 years old,
the child’s viral load remains undetectable, considered a “functional
cure.” Researchers have put the baby
through a battery of tests and have found no virus able to replicate anywhere
in the child’s body.
Experts still trying
to explain cure
Scientists are still trying to explain this cure, but there
is general excitement and hope for what future findings may discover.
We at mothers2mothers (m2m) are thrilled at the prospect
that infected babies may actually one day be able to live a life that is
HIV-free. Yet, we realise there are
still many questions to be answered before this research is confirmed and
HIV-positive babies receive this treatment.
While we can all exult that there is a potential cure for a
baby born positive, we have to acknowledge that HIV testing and sophisticated
treatments will not be available to the vast majority of children most at risk
of contracting HIV in resource-poor regions of the world.
Newborns living with
Mothers2mothers believes that preventing infants at risk of
HIV from becoming infected in the first place should continue to be the primary
goal. In 2011, 330 000 children were newly infected with HIV.
Most of these
children live in sub-Saharan Africa and most acquire the virus from their
mothers during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.
Considerable progress has been made over the last decade in
reducing paediatric transmission rates by providing women and babies with
effective and inexpensive medical interventions during pregnancy and after
birth. If this progress continues, we
believe an HIV-free generation is within our reach.
And truly, if there is a choice between treating a baby with
drugs and one born healthy, the answer is clear. Just ask any mother.
“I would prefer to
have a healthy baby” says Goodness Makhanda, an m2m Mentor Mother living with
HIV in Mbabane, Swaziland. This mother of
a healthy four-year-old son continues, “Prevention is better than cure. If somehow it happened that my child would
not be treated, that would be so hard for me to raise up a positive child,
that’s why I’d prefer to prevent HIV."