Doctors are hesitant to call it a cure, but a Mississippi girl born with HIV remains in "clear remission" after beginning treatment 30 hours after her birth, according to a new report published online yesterday. The child received a cocktail of antiretroviral drugs for 18 months; another 18 months later, the girl, now 3, shows no sign of active infection according to tests described by HealthDay as the "most sensitive available." But one AIDS scientist explains why he and his peers are so hesitant to call it a cure: Unlike with cancers, "where after five years or so you can be relatively certain the person is not going to go and relapse," there is no definition for an AIDS cure yet.
So instead, "we're calling it remission because we'd like to observe the child for a longer time and be absolutely sure there's no rebound," one of her doctors tells the AP. HealthDay adds that some tests have found "very low-level indications" of HIV in her blood; they could be one of two things: false positives, or remnants of the virus. If they're the latter, the possibility exists that they could cause a rebound. One thing doctors are now sure of: that the girl was indeed infected in the womb. (Some skeptics initially though the positive test at birth may have been due to her exposure to the virus in her mother's blood, and not because of true infection.) A government-sponsored international study set to begin in January will test this early treatment in babies born with HIV to see if the results in this case can be replicated. (Read more HIV stories.)