x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

An HIV breakthrough

A successful treatment of a HIV-infected child has raised hopes for the possibility of a complete cure among children.

An estimated 300,000 babies are born each year infected with HIV. The virus that leads to Aids is a scourge for any person infected. But the cases of infants - born under what was long believed to be a death sentence, through no fault of their own - were simply heartbreaking.

That may be about to change. A toddler, born in the US state of Mississippi, has now fully recovered, doctors say, following treatment that began immediately after her birth. It would be the first documented case of a cure.

This medical breakthrough - if confirmed - will be historic. Only the battle against cancer has had similar prominence for the challenges faced and the difficulty in finding a cure. Decades of study have yielded anti-retroviral treatments that are prolonging the lives of hundreds of thousands of people living with HIV. The so-called death sentence has been commuted into a lifetime of taking pills, but a true cure remained elusive.

This 2-year-old's case is the most hopeful to date, not just for her own life but for so many others. Doctors say more tests are needed to confirm the efficacy of the treatment and whether it can be replicated for other patients. If so, it will be a breakthrough on the scale of the eradication of smallpox and the cure for polio.