About that cure for HIV

A cure for HIV.

The words flow so easily, it’s possible not to grasp the meaning. A cure for HIV . For those who remember the fear that accompanied the realization that there was an insidious and unknown disease at work, the news that a child born with HIV has been cured — or at least scientists so claim — is particularly significant.

Three-hundred-thousand children worldwide could be ridded of the disease, especially in AIDS-plagued African countries where too many babies are born with the virus, the Associated Press says.

“We can’t promise to cure babies who are infected. We can promise to prevent the vast majority of transmissions if the moms are tested during every pregnancy,” Dr. Hannah Gay said.

No she can’t.

I wrote that a year ago March, when the world was awestuck at the possibility that doctors had actually found a way to cure a baby born with HIV.

Reality, it turns out today, is cruel.

The Boston Globe reports that the so-called “Mississippi baby,” once thought cured, has HIV.

“It felt very much like a punch to the gut,” Gay said. “It was disappointing from the scientific standpoint because we had been hopeful it would lead to bigger and better things, but mainly for the sake of the child who is back on medicine and expected to remain on medicine for a very long time.”

When the announcement of the cure was made, some doctors suggested the baby probably really didn’t have HIV. Today’s announcement — and this is a stretch to find the silver lining — proves that the baby did and, at least for awhile, was free of it. It is, one doctor says, at least a step in the right direction.

  • Dee Kieu

    Dr. Gay’s statement “We can’t promise to cure babies who are infected. We can promise to
    prevent the vast majority of transmissions if the moms are tested during
    every pregnancy,” actually still holds true. 98% of transmissions to infants are prevented if pregnant mothers receive treatment during pregnancy. I believe this is what Dr. Gay was referring to if you look at her statement. Her statement does not imply that they had found a cure for HIV in children, but simply that transmission is preventable in the vast majority of cases. The fact that HIV has returned to the Mississippi patient does not change this fact.