S. African child 'cured of HIV' after one year of treatment

LONDON • A South African child born with HIV has surprised experts by appearing to be effectively cured of the virus after just a year of treatment followed by 81/2 years drug-free.

Patients with HIV would normally need to stay on antiretroviral (ART) drugs for the rest of their lives to keep Aids at bay. But this child, still off treatment and now almost 10 years old, has no signs of the disease.

Yet experts urged caution, saying that the case is extremely rare and does not suggest a simple path to a cure.

"It's a case that raises more questions than it necessarily answers," said Ms Linda-Gail Bekker, president of the International Aids Society (IAS), which is holding a conference in Paris this week.

"It does raise the interesting notion that maybe treatment isn't for life. (But) it's clearly a rare phenomenon."

The child, whose name and gender were not disclosed, contracted HIV from its mother and was part of a clinical trial in which researchers were investigating the effect of treating HIV-positive babies in the first few weeks of life, and then stopping and starting the ART medication while checking whether their HIV was being controlled.

Professor Sharon Lewin, an HIV expert at the University of Melbourne and co-chair of the IAS' HIV Cure and Cancer forum, said the case offers possible insights into how the immune system can control HIV replication when treatment is interrupted.

The conference has also heard calls for the US government, the largest donor to global Aids research and treatment, to reject "draconian" funding cuts proposed by President Donald Trump.

Any funding lapse, leading researchers said, will be counted in human lives.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2017, with the headline 'S. African child 'cured of HIV' after one year of treatment'. Print Edition | Subscribe