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Infant Apparently Cured of HIV

Daily medications for young children with HIV include both tablets and liquid drugs in syringes.
Andrew Aitchison/In Pictures/Corbis

Scientists believe a little girl born with HIV has been cured of the infection.

She's the first child and only the second person in the world known to have been cured since the virus touched off a global pandemic nearly 32 years ago.

Doctors aren't releasing the child's name, but we know she was born in Mississippi and is now 2 ½ years old – and healthy. Scientists presented details of the case on Sunday at a scientific conference in Atlanta.

The case has big implications. While fewer than 130 such children are born each year in the U.S., an estimated 330,000 children around the world get infected with HIV at or around birth every year, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa.

And while many countries are striving to prevent these mother-to-child infections, many thousands of children will certainly get infected in coming years.

Until now, such children have been considered permanently infected. Specialists thought they needed lifelong antiviral drugs to prevent HIV from destroying their immune system and killing them of AIDS.

The Mississippi child's surprising cure came about from happenstance – and the quick thinking of a University of Mississippi pediatric infectious disease specialist named Hannah Gay.

"The child came to our attention as a high-risk exposure to maternal HIV," Gay tells Shots. Her mother hadn't had any prenatal care, she says, so didn't get antiviral drugs during pregnancy.

The fact that the newborn tested positive for HIV within 30 hours of birth is a sign she was probably infected in utero, HIV specialists say.

Gay decided to begin treating the child immediately, with the first dose of antivirals given within 31 hours of birth. That's faster than most infants born with HIV get treated, and specialists think it's one important factor in the child's cure.

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