Whenever I hear the word “cure” it’s hard not to get excited. I had one of those moments when I saw a recent headline in the Courier-Journal. A baby born in Mississippi has been “cured” of an HIV infection. If this is true it could drastically change how babies born in poor countries, where HIV rates are high, are treated.
In the Mississippi case, the mother had had no prenatal treatment. She showed up at the hospital in advanced labor. A rapid HIV test showed the woman was positive for the deadly virus. Shortly after the baby was born, it was treated with heavy doses of antiretroviral drugs. When the baby was tested again about a month later, the virus was barely detectable.
This could be a wonderful discovery. In 2011, about 300,000 babies were born HIV positive. It doesn’t happen very often in the U.S. (up to 200 cases a year), but in poor countries 40 percent of mothers with HIV don’t receive treatment and the virus is passed on to their children.
It’s estimated that there are three million children around the world who have the AIDS virus. If these children had been treated within hours of being born with high doses of drugs like the Mississippi baby was, would they have been cured? It’s something to think about.