Thursday, March 07, 2013

Left Side of the Aisle #98 - Part 2

Good news #2: Infant cured of HIV

A second bit of good news is that it appears that a baby born with the AIDS virus has been what doctors are calling "functionally cured." In the words of Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, if it's not a cure, "it's about as close to a cure as we've seen."

The case involves a child from Mississippi, whose mother was not diagnosed as being HIV-positive until she was in labor. When the child was born with the virus, it was immediately treated aggressively. The child is now 2-1/2 and has been off medication for about a year with no signs of infection; after sophisticated testing, all that was found was inactive traces of the virus's DNA, which were not replicating.

It's important to note that this is not a "cure" in the colloquial sense: It will not help people who have already developed AIDS. Rather, it's a means to keep the virus from getting established in the body in the first place and is of particular use to infants. However, it does provide another real avenue of research.

Even with the limiting adjective "functional," this still would mark only the world's second reported cure. The other is Timothy Ray Brown of San Francisco, has not needed HIV medications in the five years since undergoing a risky a bone marrow transplant from one of the rare people who is naturally resistant to HIV.

About 330,000 children were born with HIV in 2011, mostly in poor countries where only about 60% of infected pregnant women get the treatment that can keep them from passing the virus to their fetuses. In the US, such births are rare and have declined by 90% since the mid-1990s because HIV testing and treatment have become a standard part of prenatal care - care which, it should be noted, this woman did not get. Apparently, she was rural and poor, two big strikes against adequate health care of any sort.

Which is why screw Obamacare. We need a national health care system that doesn't depend on private insurance - or, frankly, on insurance at all - and will focus on who is under-served rather than who is under-insured.


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