A 9-year-old South African child with HIV has been in remission for over eight years, scientists reported at the 9th IAS Conference on HIV Science in Paris in July. The child was born with HIV in 2007 and put on antiretroviral treatment at nine weeks of age. Treatment was interrupted at 40 weeks when the virus had been suppressed. The child has maintained an undetectable level of HIV.
This case “strengthens our hope that by treating HIV-infected children for a brief period beginning in infancy, we may be able to spare them the burden of lifelong therapy,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). NIAID sponsored the clinical trial in which the child was enrolled.
There have been two other reported cases of a child in remission from HIV after early treatment. The Mississippi Baby, born with HIV in 2010, controlled the virus without drugs for 27 months before it reappeared in her blood. And in 2015, researchers reported that a French child, who was born with HIV in 1996 and treated for roughly six years, continued to control the virus more than 11 years later.
Commenting on the case of the South African child, amfAR Vice President and Director of Research Dr. Rowena Johnston said: "While we work toward our ultimate goal of a full cure for HIV, we can learn a great deal from cases of remission like this one,” such as understanding the HIV reservoir and various factors associated with post-treatment control of the virus.
“With that understanding, we could then devise ways to manipulate those factors in a manner that could be reliably replicated in more and more people living with HIV," she said.
The presentation on the South African child was one of several highlights of the IAS Conference, which was attended by more than 8,000 researchers and advocates from over 140 countries. The conference was chaired by International AIDS Society (IAS) President Dr. Linda-Gail Bekker and organized in partnership with the ANRS (the French National Agency for Research on AIDS and Viral Hepatitis).
Forty-two amfAR-funded researchers gave talks on their recent findings, and another 49, including seven TREAT Asia investigators, gave abstract or poster presentations.
“We're at a critical juncture in HIV research," said Bekker. "Despite the remarkable scientific progress made, there are many roadblocks slowing its implementation. Now is the time for science to drive our progress forward."
Other conference highlights include:
Treatment for HIV and coinfections are improving and becoming easier to take. Monthly or bimonthly injections of ART could replace daily pills for people living with HIV, and long-acting injectable pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) may be on the horizon.
Prevention efforts are gaining ground. A large study, partially funded by amfAR, shows that gay HIV-positive men whose viral load is undetectable do not transmit HIV to their HIV-negative partners.
Links between treating HIV and cancer explored. The conference was preceded by the IAS HIV Cure & Cancer Forum, the first major scientific gathering to address synergies in the treatment of HIV and cancer.
With enough will, prevention and treatment are achievable. In Swaziland, the country with the highest HIV incidence in the world, expanded prevention and treatment has led to the incidence of HIV nearly halving in the past five years.
Also at the conference, amfAR Chairman Kenneth Cole, founder of the newly launched End AIDS Coalition (EAC), moderated a discussion with panelists including UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé, Marijke Wijnroks, the Global Fund's interim executive director, and Ambassador Dr. Deborah Birx, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator.
For more information on the South African child, click here.
Full coverage of the conference can be found at the IAS website.