"Cured" HIV baby gives hope to local doctors

It was news that rocked the medical world; a baby diagnosed with HIV at birth was functionally cured.

"To know that - in the case that was reported - even in a situation where mom presents and the diagnosis is made on the spot and the disease is transmitted, that maybe there is a combination of medications that can be given very early that will prevent the establishment of infections," said pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Karen Williams.

In this unique case, the unidentified baby was born to an HIV-infected mother who had no prenatal or preventative care.  When the child was born, doctors administered three anti-viral drugs within the first 30 hours of the child's life.

It was that step that seems to be the key because; years later the virus is virtually undetectable in the child's blood.

"That is significant for us because the situations in which we worry most about babies becoming infected with HIV are those situations where the diagnosis is not made in the mother until she presents for delivery," said Williams.

Williams says the really exciting part of this case, is that the mother and child were both high-risk.   At some point, the mother apparently stopped giving the child its treatment which would usually mean the virus would become uncontrolled.  However, even without the daily medication, the child was able to suppress the virus.

That gives them hope for other babies in similar circumstance.

"We still don't have a good way to prevent transmission when the diagnosis happens right at the time of delivery and we worry most about those situations," said Williams.

It is still unclear how this case will affect future treatment, or even if it could have implications for the treatment of adults.

The important thing now, is prevention.  Each year in the U.S. about 200 babies are infected with the virus from their mother.

However, according to Williams, if mom and baby are given the proper care throughout the pregnancy and birth, the chance of the virus being passed on is just two percent.

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure. What we want to do is try to prevent the situation where the baby is exposed to lots of virus," said Williams.

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