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Editorial, Opinion Pieces React To ‘Functional Cure’ Of Infant Born With HIV

Scientists on Sunday announced that an infant born with HIV appears to have been “functionally cured” of the virus after receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) within 30 hours of birth. The following is a summary of three opinion pieces published in response to the announcement.

  • Sarah Boseley, Guardian: “This is progress and will open up new avenues for scientists to explore, but the implications for those already infected or even the still significant numbers of babies born with the virus in the developing world are sadly probably slight,” Guardian health editor Boseley writes. “Hopefully, scientists will establish that any newborn baby can be functionally cured in this way. But they do not expect the same to be true of children whose HIV infection is discovered later — let alone adults,” she notes, adding, “Real excitement is justified by the Mississippi discovery — but it is what it tells scientists still trying to figure out how to defeat HIV that matters. Any practical applications are a long way further down the line” (3/5).
  • Mary Guinan, CNN: “This is the second reported HIV cure in history and the first in a child, and it is rightly making international news,” Guinan, a physician and former associate director for science at the CDC, writes. “But there was another great advance against the HIV virus that did not make big headlines,” she continues, adding, “A simple treatment with antiretroviral drugs can prevent babies from being infected by their HIV-positive mothers in the first place.” She writes, “We should also celebrate those babies who were not infected with HIV by virtue of treatment of mother and newborn with this drug regimen” (3/6).
  • Kent Sepkowitz, Daily Beast: “The news made a major splash and raised hopes that a giant step forward in controlling this devastating infection was finally at hand,” Sepkowitz, an infectious disease specialist in New York City, writes, adding, “Amid all the excitement, debate continues on two fronts. First, was the child truly infected? The low viral load was a very unusual but not unheard-of finding, meaning we may never know the truth. Second, does the current spate of normal tests truly indicate a cure?” He continues, “That said, the new information may have a profound public health impact if the paradigm holds up and can be brought to some or most of the 330,000 infants born annually with HIV worldwide, including the 200 or so in the United States,” noting, “Key questions include how to get to infants, many of whom are born at home or else far from high-tech medicine, how to monitor them while they take the potentially toxic antiretrovirals, and when to stop the medication to see if ‘it worked’” (3/5).