Although progress has been made in reducing the number of new HIV infections among children between 0 and 14 years of age, the number of children infected on an annual basis on a global scale is still “unacceptably high.”
reported at the 9th International AIDS Society (IAS) Conference on HIV Science in Paris, France, however, is leaving researchers hopeful that these children may be spared the lifelong burden of therapy as well as the associated immune health consequences.
This hope comes in the form of a 9-year-old South African child who was diagnosed with the virus at just 1 month of age. The child received early antiretroviral therapy (ART) during infancy, achieved viral suppression, and has maintained remission without receiving any drugs since 2008, according to the official press release
The child had been enrolled in a clinical trial, called “Children with HIV Early Antiretroviral Therapy,” or CHER, which was funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The trial looked at HIV-infected infants who were randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group of children received deferred ART, while the other group received early, limited ART for the duration of 40 or 96 weeks. The South African was one of 143 infants who received early ART for the duration of 40 weeks.
Before receiving ART, the child presented with a high viral load, but after treatment, by the time the child was around 9 weeks of age, viral suppression was achieved, according to the press release. After 40 weeks, the researchers stopped the treatment and kept a close eye on the infant’s “immune health.” During follow-up examinations over the course of several years, the child was reported to have remained in “good health.” It is noted that it is “not standard practice in South Africa to monitor viral load in people who are not on ART,” but “recent analyses of stored blood samples taken during follow-up showed that the child has maintained an undetectable level of HIV.”
At 9-and-a-half years of age, the researchers performed laboratory and clinical studies dedicated to looking at the child’s immune health and HIV presence. Their findings, according to the press release, were as follows:
- Other than a reservoir of virus that was integrated into a tiny proportion of immune cells, they did not detect evidence of infection.
- The child had a healthy level of immune cells, had an undetectable viral load, and presented with no associated symptoms.
- A trace of immune system response to the virus was detected, but no HIV were capable of replication.
Furthermore, the child did not exhibit any genetic characteristics associated with spontaneous control of the virus, which suggests that “40 weeks of ART provided during infancy may have been key to achieving HIV remission.”