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HIV & AIDS Health Center

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Girl Thought Cured of HIV Shows Signs of Infection

After more than two years of no drug therapy, she's back on medication; development disappoints doctors, researchers


Fauci said Thursday that this early treatment "did not completely eliminate the reservoir of HIV-infected cells that was established upon infection, but may have considerably limited its development and averted the need for antiretroviral medication over a considerable period."

"Now we must direct our attention to understanding why that is and determining whether the period of sustained remission in the absence of therapy can be prolonged even further," he concluded.

The girl's pediatrician, Dr. Hannah Gay, of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, launched HIV treatment just 30 hours following the girl's birth.

Doctors normally put HIV-positive mothers on two antiretroviral medications prior to birth as a way of preventing transmission of the virus to their unborn children. After delivery, doctors test the newborns for HIV and continue treatment if the virus appears.

But in this girl's case, no one knew the mother was HIV-positive before delivery. This prompted Gay to put the newborn on antiretroviral treatment immediately, and that timing appears to have made a difference.

Gay also chose to employ a combination of three antiretroviral drugs, all at doses commonly used to treat HIV-infected infants, and kept the girl on the medications until she was 18 months old. This prevented the virus from mounting any drug resistance.

Tests showed progressively diminishing HIV levels in the infant's blood, until it reached undetectable levels 29 days after birth. The child remained on antiretrovirals until 18 months of age, at which point doctors said they lost track of her and she stopped treatment.

Doctors next saw her about 10 months after her treatment ceased. The child underwent repeated standard HIV tests, which detected no virus in her blood.

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