In what can be called as one of the rare cases, a South African child born with HIV has been cured of AIDS virus just after a year of treatment.
Generally patients with HIV needs to stay on antiretroviral (ART) drugs for the rest of their lives to keep AIDS at bay. But this 10 years child, who has been off the treatment for over eight years now has no signs of the disease.
"It does raise the interesting notion that maybe treatment isn't for life. But it's clearly a rare phenomenon" said Linda-Gail Bekker, President of the International AIDS Society (IAS).
The child, was part of a clinical trial in which researchers were investigating the effect of treating HIV-positive babies in the first few weeks of life, and then stopping and starting the ART medicines whilst checking whether their HIV was being controlled.
The HIV/AIDS pandemic has killed around 35 million people worldwide since it began in the 1980s. Stopping the treatment in between can lead to several other infections, but this child has been different.
"To our knowledge, this is the first case of sustained virological control from a randomized trial of ART interruption following early treatment of infants," said one of the researchers.
The baby contracted HIV from its mother. Treatment with ART started when the baby was almost nine weeks old but was interrupted at 40 weeks when the virus had been suppressed, and the child was monitored regularly for any signs of relapse. At age 9.5 years, the child was clinically asymptomatic, the researchers said.
Sharon Lewin, an HIV expert at the University of Melbourne and co-chair of the IAS's HIV Cure and Cancer forum, said the case threw up possible insights into how the human immune system can control HIV replication when treatment is interrupted.