Picture for illustration purposes only.
PHOTO BY ARCHIVE
PARIS – In what is considered a rare case, a nine-year-old South African boy diagnosed with HIV when he was just a month old has been in HIV remission for eight and a half years without antiretroviral drugs.
The case was presented by the child’s doctor, Dr. Avy Violari, head of pediatric clinical trials at the Perinatal HIV Research Unit at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, at the 9th International AIDS Conference on HIV Science in Paris yesterday (Monday). The conference started on Sunday and will end tomorrow.
“This is really very rare,” said Violari. The child was not identified.
It is the first reported case of a child controlling their HIV infection without antiretroviral treatment (ART) in Africa and the third known case globally, according to a CNN report.
Soon after being diagnosed with HIV, the boy was placed on ART for 40 weeks and then treatment was stopped thereafter. The lad’s health was then monitored.
Tests were conducted on blood samples of the boy in late 2015 and they revealed the child is in HIV remission or that the levels of the virus in the blood are undetectable using standard tests.
Additional testing of blood samples dating back to when the child was still an infant confirm that remission happened soon after treatment was stopped.
ART was stopped as part of research into the potential for early ART to decrease infant mortality due to AIDS and reduce the need for lifelong treatment among newborns infected with the virus that affects a person’s immune system, making him or her highly vulnerable to ailments.
Violari told CNN: “By studying these cases, we hope we will understand how one can stop (treatment).”
The child was part of a research that ran from 2005 to 2011 and called the Children with HIV Early Antiretroviral Therapy (CHER) trial.
More than 370 infants infected with HIV were randomly assigned to immediately receive ART for either 40 weeks or 96 weeks.
A separate group was not placed on immediate treatment and instead received treatment based on standard guidelines at the time, which provided that ART should start based on the level of immune cells or CD4 cells damaged by the virus.
According to Aidsmap.com, a person living with HIV undergoes a CD4 cell count regularly.
A cell count is the number of blood cells in a cubic millimetre of blood (a very small blood sample) and not a count of all the CD4 cells in the body. A higher number indicates a stronger immune system.
The CD4 cell count of a person who does not have HIV can be anywhere between 500 and 1500.
Current guidelines recommend immediate treatment, regardless of CD4 cell count.
There is no cure or vaccine yet against HIV and ART for children comes with the risk of potential toxicity, side effects and the need for daily adherence, which becomes difficult during the teen years.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said that for infants infected with HIV close to birth, the disease progresses rapidly within the first few months of life and can often lead to death.
UNAIDS statistics for 2015 showed that more than 1.8 million children were living with HIV and 150,000 children became newly infected, the majority of which were in Africa.
An estimated 110,000 children died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2015, the UNAIDS also reported. GAC/Expat Media
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