At the beginning of July, the HIV/AIDS community received what felt like a major blow: After 27 months, a baby thought to be cured of the disease tested positive for it. The so-called “Mississippi baby” was born with the HIV but thanks to an aggressive treatment regimen given for 18 months, was later found to be virus-free. Just over two years later, after the baby turned four, traces of the virus were again found in the child’s blood.
Though the rebound in the toddler’s HIV status is certainly a disappointment, it allows researchers to look at what went wrong, insights that will undoubtedly be invaluable when it comes to finding new treatments. The focus for researchers now then, is not only a treatment regimen that can be given at birth to cure or at the least repress the disease but also a regimen to incite prolonged remission in infants and older children who did not receive said initial treatment.
At a recent HIV/AIDS conference, the focus was decidedly on what can be learned from this case. The Voice of America quoted comments made by Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases:
“‘So, something was keeping the virus suppressed,’ he said. ‘We need to know what that was and we also need to know what triggered it. But there is no guarantee we are going to get a cure; we may be faced with the fact that we do have to treat people indefinitely. We do not know that right now.'”
Four major questions stemming from this case are:
- What about the treatment kept the disease under control without regular treatment for 27 months, a significantly longer period that ever reached before?
- How does the virus maintain a “latent reservoir?”
- What shocks it out of latency?
- Once it’s out, how can it be sent back?
Ultimately, these questions will drive the future of HIV/AIDS research, demonstrating that science doesn’t always progress in a linear fashion; and that a setback is not necessarily a failure.
Other Sexual Health News This Week
Both Sides in Gay Marriage Fight in Utah Agree: Supreme Court Should Hear Case (New York Times) Meanwhile, in Ohio, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals weighs four states’ gay marriage cases (USA Today)
Too Much Sex in Sex Education Book, Fremont Parents Say (San Jose Mercury News)
Kansas City Bans Sexual Orientation Discrimination (Lawrence Journal-World)
Several states have seen changes in their STI rates: These include areas of Spokane and North Idaho, rural southwestern Oregon, and San Diego County. In Illinois, increased rates led to the re-opening of an STI clinic.
The following conference proposals are due in September. Click on each title for more information and to submit.
The following conferences take place in August and September. Click on each title for more information and to register.
National Sexual Assault Conference, August 20-22, Pittsburgh, PA Be sure to check out “Sexual Violence in ‘The Scene’:Lessons from and Challenges Within BDSM/Kink Circles” presented by Aida Manduley from SHR’s partner organization, The CSPH.
Catalyst Con, September 11-14, Los Angeles, CA Say hi to staff writer Kait Scalisi who is presenting on two panels: “Sex, Dating, Kink, and the ‘C’ Word,” and “How to Be a Sex-Positive Warrior in Public Health.”
Widener University’s Sexuality, Intimacy, & Aging Conference, September 19-20, Chester, PA Check out Kait’s session, “Sexual Health and Pleasure in Cancer Survivorship.”