A turning point in HIV/AIDs medicine yesterday–scientists have found a baby girl that they believe has been cured of HIV through the application of heavy doses of anti-viral drugs within the first 2 days of birth.
The fact that the newborn tested positive for HIV within 30 hours of birth is a sign she was probably infected in utero, HIV specialists say.
Gay decided to begin treating the child immediately, with the first dose of antivirals given within 31 hours of birth. That’s faster than most infants born with HIV get treated, and specialists think it’s one important factor in the child’s cure.
In addition, Gay gave higher-than-usual, “therapeutic” doses of three powerful HIV drugs rather than the “prophylactic” doses usually given in these circumstances.
Over the months, the baby thrived and standard tests could detect no virus in her blood, which is the normal result from antiviral treatment.
Shortly after, the baby and her mother had disappeared and it turns out the mother stopped giving her the anti-viral drugs. When authorities found the family, the doctors say they were surprised to see that the virus was no longer present in her system, expecting it would be. It is the second time in 32 years that this has ever happened (the first because of a man who got a bone marrow transplant from someone who was resistant to the virus).
Just yesterday I was reading Garance’s reflections on her days with ACT UP and the powerful Oscar-nominated documentary, “How to Survive a Plague.” She writes,
ACT UP was the last of the great new social movements of the 20th century, a direct descendent of all that had come before, its members trained by veterans of Stonewall, the Freedom Summer, and the grassroots creators of the women’s and gay liberation movements. At its peak, it had a budget of more than a million a year—without a single paid staffer. (In fact, if I recall correctly from my days on the Coordinating Committee, the greatest regular monthly expense was the industrial-strength Xerox machine we rented to produce reports, letters, fliers, and posters.) Independent affiliates took root in more than 100 sites around the world. Roughly 1,000 people came together every Monday night in lower Manhattan in the purest example of democracy I’ve ever experienced, to argue, plan, cajole and flirt, before breaking for a week in which more than 40 committees and subcommittees would continue the work on everything from neuroscience to HIV prevention to housing policy.
It is overwhelming, inspiring and beautiful to think about the people that fought, researched, organized and rose up to make this day happen.