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Prevention Remains Best Method To Stop Mother-To-Child HIV Transmission

“If confirmed by further analysis,” the case of a Mississippi infant being cured of HIV “would be the first time a person has been cured with simple drug treatments, making a lifetime of antiviral therapy unnecessary,” a New York Times editorial states. Born to an HIV-positive mother who did not receive HIV treatment during her pregnancy, the newborn was aggressively treated for HIV infection beginning 30 hours after birth, but the mother stopped treatment after 18 months, the editorial notes, adding, “The baby, now two and a half years old, has been free of the active virus ever since.” The editorial adds, “Although very sophisticated tests can find traces of the virus, it is not able to replicate and spread. This is described as a ‘functional cure.'”

“Researchers must still demonstrate conclusively that the baby had truly been infected and was not simply prevented from absorbing its mother’s infection — a process achieved routinely in many babies,” the New York Times writes, adding, “They must also show that this is not an exceptional, nonreplicable case with an atypical baby, but that the same treatment would work in other newborns.” The editorial concludes, “If the stronger early treatment is confirmed to work, it could become the standard of care around the world. … [But e]ven if the treatment works, the best defense against mother-to-child transmission is still prevention, which will always be preferable to treatment after an infection has set in” (3/4).