Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus which causes AIDs, is a leading cause of death in the African American population. Once someone tests positive for the virus, in many cases, they are thought to be counting down the days until the end. And, on some continents, like Africa, AIDs has taken countless lives with little hope for progress. Many of the lives lost are those of small children who are born with the virus. But, just this week, scientists may have discovered a cure for HIV using anti-virals very early on in a patient’s life.
How Did They Do It?
The patient, a newborn when the medications were first administered, was born in Mississippi and is now a toddler. According to the patient’s doctor, they treated the child with a faster, stronger dose of three separate anti-viral medications within 30 hours of birth. Having a mother who tested positive with HIV left the baby with extremely high chances of contracting the virus as well.
Since the virus infects and reinfects healthy T-cells and tissue, the extremely high doses of anti-virals given to the patient were said to have knocked out the HIV cells before they could deposit remotely in the newborn’s body (called “reservoir seeding”).
What This Could Mean For the Community At-Large
This is definitely a major accomplishment for modern medical science. And, the current statistics on HIV and AIDs prove that efforts like these will have a major impact on countries plagued by the disease.
“About 300,000 children were born with HIV in 2011, mostly in poor countries where only about 60 percent of infected pregnant women get treatment that can keep them from passing the virus to their babies. In the U.S., such births are very rare because HIV testing and treatment long have been part of prenatal care.”
So, while the US still struggles with HIV and AIDs transmission, the greatest impacts of the disease are found abroad. Poorer countries have been unable to come out of poverty, in part, because of their ongoing battles with aggregate health and the fight against diseases like AIDs and malaria. But, just imagine what these findings could mean for them now.
This case would actually be the second documented “cure” for HIV. A San Francisco man has been off of anti-virals since he received a bone marrow transplant five years ago. But, this new case proves that there may a host of methods to solving the AIDs epidemic, a disease which was once considered unbeatable.
In all, these findings are promising but will need a great deal of assistance through the process of implementation. Getting strong, expensive anti-viral meds to babies in remote countries will be an arduous task in and of itself. But, to also combat cultural blockages to drug administration could potentially thwart any immediate action against the disease. There has beena very well-documented fear of Western medicine in Africa especially after nurses and doctors were proven to have intentionally infected Libyan children with HIV. So, it is uncertain how these cures will be received there.
However, one thing is certain, medical science is changing things and quickly. And, though they have had some missteps before, their current direction appears to be squarely toward saving lives.