I’m not surprised to hear this. I wish I was. I wish this child nothing but the best in life. But I’m not surprised that the baby is not cured of HIV. The definition of “cure” in the media is not accurate.
“Cure”, in most peoples’ minds, means to get rid of a whatever illness/infection/whatever is causing problems. The problem with HIV, though, is that our tests can’t determine if we’ve cured it or not.
The tests for HIV measure either virus in the blood, or, more commonly, antibodies produced by the infected person’s body in the blood. But HIV doesn’t lurk only in the plasma. It’s not always building new virus particles. HIV is clever. HIV becomes a *part* of the patient. The HIV genome incorporates itself into the host’s genome. That’s not something the current tests check for. So even if the body is keeping viral replication in check, the virus can still be waiting, lurking, hiding until it can come back out.
This was my first thought when it was announced that a bone-marrow transplant patient had been cured of HIV. This was my thought when it was announced this baby was cured. Until we can see every last resting CD4 T cell, we will never be able to declare someone completely free of the virus.
I don’t say this to be negative. I am optimistic that this child has a good chance at controlling viral loads and living a happy, healthy life with the right medications. I am saying this because I still feel it is somewhat dangerous to throw around the word “cured.” HIV cannot be cured. Yet. HIV can be prevented, with some thinking and being safe. Protect yourself. Protect your child.
But don’t protect the virus itself.