Advances in HIV treatment for children show a promising future

by Shannon MacKay on March 28, 2014


hiv positive and pregnant

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus that leads to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). HIV destroys a person’s immune cells leaving them unable to fight infections and disease. Once a person’s cells have been sufficiently destroyed, he/she is considered to have AIDS because his/her body is no longer able to protect itself against illness; this eventually leads to the person’s death. Right now, approximately 2.5 million children around the world have HIV/AIDS (WebMD, 2014). Often times this disease is passed from mother to child, causing a truly tragic circumstance for the child to be born into. In the past, efforts have been made to delay the progression on HIV into AIDS in young children through the use of certain antiviral medications. There has, however, been no hope for stopping this virus from ultimately leading to the demise of innocent children.

Recently, an announcement was made that a second baby who was born with HIV had been relieved of the disease through aggressive drug treatment. A first child was announced to have been cured via this drug treatment about a year ago; however, this initial announcement received a great deal of criticism and general doubt in the truth of it. This second announcement received a much more positive response.

The procedure that led to this second miracle started four hours after the birth of this second baby. Pediatrician Dr. Audra Deveikis performed an HIV test on this baby girl because her mother was a carrier of AIDS and had not taken the drugs to prevent passing the disease to her child, which she was prescribed. Once Dr. Deveikis determined that the child was HIV positive, she immediately began administering the baby three drugs – AZT, 3TC and nevirapine – which are usually used at high doses for the treatment of this virus. Dr. Deveikis took a risk by giving the child such high doses of these drugs so early in her life; normally, it is advised to wait at least a few weeks before administering them so aggressively. But, it was Dr. Deveikis’ call and she chose to take the risk because of the seriousness of the mother’s stage of the disease. Dr. Deveikis also stated that she had heard of the first baby and decided that early treatment was critical (McNeil, 2014).

Both babies are still on the drugs, but they have both been deemed HIV negative because there is no existing viral cell capable of replicating. The doctors believe that it is “considered medically unethical to stop the baby’s drugs now” because they are not positive that the virus would not begin to replicate again (McNeil, 2014). They are however, considering stopping the drugs briefly in the second baby if she is still virus-free at two years old.

A clinical trial is currently in place that it will consist of about 60 babies who are born with HIV. Within 48 hours of their birth the babies in the trial will be placed on the aggressive drugs (McNeil, 2014). Although it will take several years of following the babies to determine whether or not the treatment works, if the treatment does work, major changes will occur in the protocol for treating babies born HIV positive. This may be the trial that changes the face of HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention.

The news of the second baby was not the only recent positive news regarding the topic of HIV/AIDS. Additionally, this past week scientists reported that long term AIDS injections repelled infection in monkeys. Also this week, researchers announced advancements in genetic recombinant technology that may “enable immune cells to repel the virus” (McNeil, 2014).

Overall, these advancements in HIV/AIDS research are both exciting and miraculous. With the hope that the new trial produces positive results, scientists move forward with their research. The next step on the road to an AIDS cure being “a way to decide when to stop” administering the drugs according to Dr. Steven G. Deeks (McNeil, 2014).



{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

God is the judge April 10, 2014 at 7:57 pm



HIV Larry April 10, 2014 at 8:00 pm

I am more than impressed by this article. It gives me hope to know that in the future I will not have to take this amount of drugs to deal with my disease. It was one night in Cabo that did this to me and now I am forever affected my terrible disease.


Rachel April 10, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Such an interesting article, Shannon! I really hope they can keep this research up


Carolyn April 10, 2014 at 8:05 pm

Nice work Shans!! So proud of you for writing a wonderful article.


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