A nine-year-old South African child born with HIV has had no reported symptoms of the virus since they received treatment shortly after birth.
CNN reports Dr. Avy Violari, head of pediatric clinical trials at the Perinatal HIV Research Unit at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa and the child’s doctor, recounted the research at the 9th International AIDS Conference on HIV Science in Paris on Monday.
Violari says the child contracted HIV from its mother at birth and was given a clinical trial of early antiretroviral therapy for 40 weeks. Afterward, the child stopped treatment and was monitored for progress.
Since that first treatment, the child has remained free of symptoms for eight-and-a-half years. The child is now the first case in Africa to be in HIV remission after early antiretroviral therapy. Globally, this marks the third known case.
In 2010 a baby in Mississippi stopped treatment and suppressed HIV symptoms for 27 months before it reappeared in the blood. A French teen born with HIV was also able to suppress symptoms since stopping medication at age six.
Violari notes that the South African child’s case is unusual.
“We don’t believe that antiretroviral therapy alone can lead to remission,” Violari said in a statement. “We don’t really know what’s the reason why this child has achieved remission – we believe it’s either genetic or immune system-related.”
However, researchers are hopeful that this case will help aid in creating a new vaccine or therapy to combat HIV. It also has given renewed interest in early antiretroviral therapy in infancy.