HIV/AIDS research gives students hope for the future

Jennifer Sans/ Contributing Writer

Scientists and doctors in the medical community may be coming closer to finding a cure for the HIV/AIDS virus.

It was reported on March 3, 2013 that an infant in Mississippi was cured of HIV.

The news of the infant who was cured has spread globally as possibly being the second case to ever be documented of a cured patient. Doctors and scientists are excited about the news.

“There’s going to be a huge amount of research that’s going to come from this. If this ultimately leads to a standard way of treating infants that’s effective and actually cures HIV, that would be wonderful. It’s very, very exciting,” Mary Jo Trepka, an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics.

Trepka was honored by President Obama for her AIDS research in 2011.

“It is a very important milestone in the development of a cure for HIV/AIDS. I am confident that this event will trigger a new wave of research in HIV/AIDS. It is some sort of boost we need today,” Sakhrat Khizroev, vice chair of the Department of Immunology said.

According to The New York Times, the infant was born in 2010 to a mother who did not know at the time that she was infected with the virus. Hannah B. Gay, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, began intensive treatment on the newborn.

When the baby was 18 months old, the mother stopped going to the hospital to receive treatment for her baby. Five months later, the mother returned and doctors were shocked to find that all of the baby’s tests came back negative for any infection.

“This is amazing. I can’t believe there could actually be a cure. I don’t know anyone who is infected, but I think this is great news for them,” Rhianna Jenkins, junior in hospitality management said.

There is still some skepticism of the news among doctors and scientists in the medical community about the case with this patient. Not enough information is known about the case at this time.

“There are a lot of unknowns with this. It could be a fluke. They need to be able to see if they can replicate this in other infants before they start doing full scale trials,” said Trepka.

Khizroev said although the event is groundbreaking, more studies need to be conducted.

There is also the question of whether or not this case could be a model for research of the virus in adults. It may only serve a purpose for research in infected infants.

“It’s a lot more complex in adults. When you’re initially infected, the virus is multiplying like crazy. Then your body starts to attack the virus, but it never goes down to 0. It hides in different reservoirs in adults,” said Trepka.

Students gathered at the Biscayne Bay Campus cafeteria to watch the breaking news of the cured patient on TV.

“Putting the baby immediately on those drugs seems a little scary, but if it really cured the baby, then I think that’s incredible,” freshman art major Gianni Barcos said. “AIDS seemed to be a disease that there was just no cure for. I can imagine that this is exciting for everyone, especially those infected with the virus.”