South African HIV-positive child medication-free for nearly nine years

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On Sunday Organisers of an worldwide HIV science conference in a global HIV meeting urged the United States government, a major donor of AIDS research and treatment programmes, to "stay engaged" even as President Donald Trump has threatened cuts.

For the next eight years the child didn't receive any antiretroviral medicine, but a follow-up analysis of stored blood samples taken during the interim showed that the virus had not returned.

"This is the highest recorded cases ever since 1984", the report said.

A study underway now is testing whether treating HIV-infected newborns within two days of birth can control the virus later after treatment stops.

Avy Violari, from the Perinatal HIV Research Unit of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, who presented the case study to the International Aids Society conference, said: "To our knowledge, this is the first reported case of sustained control of HIV in a child enrolled in a randomised trial of ART [antiretroviral therapy] interruption following treatment early in infancy".

That said, some researchers are targeting the next best alternative - long-term remission, when the immune system can control HIV without drugs even if signs of the virus remain.

Since the epidemic erupted in the 1980s, 76.1-million people have been infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

The South-African child is the only case till date that appears to be a virtually complete HIV cure.

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She was in a study sponsored by the agency Fauci heads, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, that previously found that early versus delayed treatment helped babies survive.

Based on the report, HIV infections in these 10 countries occurred mainly among sex workers and their customers, gay men and other men who had sex with men, people using drugs by injections, transgender people and others.

While other children saw their viral loads rebound, the girl still has no detectable HIV in her blood, researchers said.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health is now conducting a trial to test whether giving ART to HIV-infected babies within 48 hours of birth leads to long-term control of the virus after treatment is stopped.

Two similar cases have been reported of long-term HIV remission in a child after early, limited treatment with antiretroviral drugs. The child, who reportedly inherited the human immunodeficiency virus from his mother, only received a year's worth of treatment starting a month after he was born.

Fauci noted that HIV can lie in remission for long periods of time in "funny places" in the body, and observed that it is "not entirely inconceivable" that the virus could begin to replicate again.

Although results among young people (aged 15-24 years) did not quite reach the 90-90-90 targets according to the report (90 per cent diagnosed, 90 per cent treatment and 90 per cent viral suppressed), Unaids notes that the health outcomes for the population living with HIV has remarkably improved. This is a reservoir of the virus which is integrated into a small proportion of immune cells.