The Mississippi child's surprising cure came about from happenstance – and the quick thinking of a University of Mississippi pediatric infectious disease specialist named Hannah Gay.
"The child came to our attention as a high-risk exposure to maternal HIV," Gay tells Shots. Her mother hadn't had any prenatal care, she says, so didn't get antiviral drugs during pregnancy.
The fact that the newborn tested positive for HIV within 30 hours of birth is a sign she was probably infected in utero, HIV specialists say.
Gay decided to begin treating the child immediately, with the first dose of antivirals given within 31 hours of birth. That's faster than most infants born with HIV get treated, and specialists think it's one important factor in the child's cure.
In addition, Gay gave higher-than-usual, "therapeutic" doses of three powerful HIV drugs rather than the "prophylactic" doses usually given in these circumstances.
Over the months, the baby thrived and standard tests could detect no virus in her blood, which is the normal result from antiviral treatment.
Then, her mother stopped bringing the child in for checkups.
"The baby's mom was having some life changes, that's about all I can say," Gay reports. "I saw her at 18 months, and then after that did not see her for several months. And we were unable to locate her for a while."
Gay enlisted the help of Mississippi state health authorities to track down the child. When they found her, the mother said she'd stopped giving antiviral drugs six or seven months earlier.Talk about progress in the Deep South.
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