SARASOTA, Fla. - Treatment for a baby born with HIV works, according to research revealed this week at an AIDS conference. The baby girl, now nine months old, is the second baby in a year free of the virus that causes AIDS, following aggressive drug treatment.
“This is great news for the baby, because the baby is now cured and is not going to have to spend a lifetime on the drugs, which are very hard to take,” says Michael Cuffage, CEO of the Community AIDS Network.
The groundbreaking news revealed at an AIDS conference this week is also good from the research end. “Because we know if you can catch the disease early enough, you can totally get it out of somebody’s system.”
Timing is everything because drugs that take the virus out of the blood stream can’t get rid of it once it invades the organs. CANS director of development Scott George agrees this is good news. “It has shown us that a baby that's born within thirty days, hit with enough medication within those thirty days, can zero convert.”
The HIV-positive mother suffered mental health issues and didn’t take medication, resulting in the baby's positive status, says George. “We've been saving babies for decades by making sure the mothers are treated when they are pregnant, and the babies therefore are born, usually without HIV or with initial treatments.”
Cuffage says the situation is both happy and sad, because delivering a baby with HIV is entirely preventable. “This should not have happened; this baby should not have been born HIV positive.”
And although now considered cured, the treatment the baby underwent could have been avoided.
Both George and Cuffage say she and others like her could have benefitted from the guidance of a peer navigator. “A peer navigator is someone who is positive who has been through the process and understands it inside and out and will take somebody who is not able to and help them navigate through the system and understand the importance of why you take your medications.”