An astonishing new breakthrough in curing HIV may have just surfaced in the form of a 9-year-old South African child.

Currently, the only methods with which to manage the virus is by consistently receiving anti-HIV treatment for the rest of a patient’s life. The child, who reportedly inherited the human immunodeficiency virus from his mother, only received a year’s worth of treatment starting a month after he was born.

Now, at just 9 years old, the child shows no signs of the virus, making him “virtually cured”.

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The youngster was first enrolled in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)-funded Children with HIV Early Antiretroviral Therapy (CHER) clinical trial in 2007. The trial researches the effects of different antiretroviral therapy (ART) on HIV-infected infants. Since the South African child stopped receiving treatment at 40 weeks old, researchers closely monitored his blood and immune system for any signs of HIV.

After eight and a half years of no treatment, they still have shown no signs of the virus.

While there have been other recorded cases of children resisting the virus without therapy, most of them are only able to enjoy short spurts of remission without later showing signs of infection once more.

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“To our knowledge, this is the first reported case of sustained control of HIV in a child enrolled in a randomized trial of ART interruption following treatment early in infancy,” said Avy Violari, co-leader of the study.

“Further study is needed to learn how to induce long-term HIV remission in infected babies,” said Anthony S. Fauci, director of the NIAID. “However, this new case strengthens our hope that by treating HIV-infected children for a brief period beginning in infancy, we may be able to spare them the burden of life-long therapy and the health consequences of long-term immune activation typically associated with HIV disease.”

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