Scientists at the Ninth International AIDS conference on HIV Science held on 24th July in Paris have reported that a South African child diagnosed with HIV at birth has been healthy and in remission for approximately nine years without any treatment.

The University of Witwatersrand Perinatal HIV Research Unit paediatric clinical trials head Dr Avy Violari treated the child with antiretroviral treatment (ART) for 40 weeks followed by continuous monitoring, reported CNN.

Analysis of the nine year old’s blood in late 2015 has showed HIV remission, while tests of samples from his infancy are reported to indicate that the remission has occurred after the suspension of the treatment.

The child received ART therapy as part of the CHER trial conducted from 2005 to 2011 in 370 HIV-infected infants who were treated for 40 or 96 weeks.

The main objective of the trial was to mitigate infant mortality rates and need for treatment for certain periods of time, while keeping a child healthy.

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According to the interim trial results, mortality reduced by 76% and HIV disease progression minimised by 75% when compared to standard treatment that showed an increased mortality rate.

"The child is the only child showing remission. We cannot see virus in the blood using standard techniques, we can see fragments of the virus in the cells."

While children were required to go back into the trial after two years, approximately ten of the total children were found to possess very low viral loads and the South African child’s virus levels were undetectable.

Dr Violari was quoted by the news agency as saying: "The child is the only child showing remission. We cannot see virus in the blood using standard techniques, we can see fragments of the virus in the cells.”

The Doctor further noted that the child’s biology and immune system may be responsible for his healthy condition and intends to further investigate the case to aid new treatment methods or vaccine design.

The child is said to be the third documented case to show long-term HIV remission following early and limited ART.

Image: Scanning electromicrograph of an HIV-infected T-cell. Photo: courtesy of NIAID/flickr.