Research Digest

Lab notes: South African child has controlled HIV without drugs for more than 8 years

The child was born to an HIV-infected mother and given antiretroviral drugs during infancy.

A nine-year-old child in South Africa has possibly become the third case of a child in remission from HIV after antiretroviral therapy only during infancy.

The case was reported by doctors at the Perinatal HIV Research Unit in the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand on July 15 at the International AIDS Society Conference in Paris.

The child had been part of a trial called Children with HIV Early Antiretroviral Therapy conducted by the team of doctors. in the trial HIV-infected infants were randomly assigned to receive one of three treatments – either deferred antiretroviral therapy or early limited antiretroviral therapy for 40 or 96 weeks.

The child was born to an HIV-infected mother in 2007 and was diagnosed as HIV positive with very high viral loads when it was just 32 days old. At about nine weeks of age, the child was given antiretroviral therapy that suppressed the virus to undetectable levels. As per the protocols of the randomised trial, the investigators halted treatment after 40 weeks. They monitored the child’s immunity and and saw that the child has remained in good health during years of follow-up examinations.

Recent analyses of stored blood samples taken during the child’s follow-up examinations show that the child has maintained undetectable levels of HIV-1 since its treatment was stopped when it was just an infant. Investigators detected a viral reservoir that had integrated into a small proportion of the child’s immune cells but otherwise found no evidence of HIV infection. The child had a healthy level of key immune cells, a viral load that was undetectable by the routine laboratory diagnostic tests, no symptoms of HIV infection and no replication competent virus.

The child also did not have genetic characteristics previously associated with spontaneous control of HIV in adults, suggesting that the 40-week antiretroviral therapy provided during infancy may have been key to achieving HIV-1 remission in this case.

“We believe there may have been other factors in addition to early ART that contributed to HIV remission in this child,” said Professor Caroline Tiemessen, the senior author of this case and Research Professor in Virology in the School of Pathology at Wits University.

The researchers have called for further investigations into the child’s immune system mechanisms to expand understanding of how it controls HIV replication.

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

When did we start parenting our parents?

As our parents grow older, our ‘adulting’ skills are tested like never before.

From answering every homework question to killing every monster under the bed, from soothing every wound with care to crushing anxiety by just the sound of their voice - parents understandably seemed like invincible, know-it-all superheroes all our childhood. It’s no wonder then that reality hits all of a sudden, the first time a parent falls and suffers a slip disc, or wears a thick pair of spectacles to read a restaurant menu - our parents are growing old, and older. It’s a slow process as our parents turn from superheroes to...human.

And just as slow to evolve are the dynamics of our relationship with them. Once upon a time, a peck on the cheek was a frequent ritual. As were handmade birthday cards every year from the artistically inclined, or declaring parents as ‘My Hero’ in school essays. Every parent-child duo could boast of an affectionate ritual - movie nights, cooking Sundays, reading favourite books together etc. The changed dynamic is indeed the most visible in the way we express our affection.

The affection is now expressed in more mature, more subtle ways - ways that mimics that of our own parents’ a lot. When did we start parenting our parents? Was it the first time we offered to foot the electricity bill, or drove them to the doctor, or dragged them along on a much-needed morning walk? Little did we know those innocent acts were but a start of a gradual role reversal.

In adulthood, children’s affection for their parents takes on a sense of responsibility. It includes everything from teaching them how to use smartphones effectively and contributing to family finances to tracking doctor’s appointments and ensuring medicine compliance. Worry and concern, though evidence of love, tend to largely replace old-fashioned patterns of affection between parents and children as the latter grow up.

It’s something that can be easily rectified, though. Start at the simplest - the old-fashioned peck on the cheek. When was the last time you gave your mom or dad a peck on the cheek like a spontaneous five-year-old - for no reason at all? Young parents can take their own children’s behaviour available as inspiration.

As young parents come to understand the responsibilities associated with caring for their parents, they also come to realise that they wouldn’t want their children to go through the same challenges. Creating a safe and secure environment for your family can help you strike a balance between the loving child in you and the caring, responsible adult that you are. A good life insurance plan can help families deal with unforeseen health crises by providing protection against financial loss. Having assurance of a measure of financial security for family can help ease financial tensions considerably, leaving you to focus on being a caring, affectionate child. Moreover,you can eliminate some of the worry for your children when they grow up – as the video below shows.


To learn more about life insurance plans available for your family, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of SBI Life and not by the Scroll editorial team.