A baby, who was thought to have been cured of HIV following 27 months without any medication, has been found to be still infected with the virus.

The child was born in 2010, but the mother didn’t know if the girl was infected with HIV. However, after 30 hours, doctors decided to give the baby HIV treatment after they found traces of the virus. Treatment using a three-drug regime continued for 18 months, whereas babies are normally only treated with two drugs, in order to protect them from the worst of the medications’ side effects. The mother then stopped bringing the baby for treatment for 10 months. However, after this time, when doctors re-tested the child, they found no trace of virus, leading them to believe the girl had been ‘functionally cured.’

However, the baby went on to develop viraemia, a medical condition where viruses enter the bloodstream and then have access to the rest of the body.

Dr Rosemary Gillespie, Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, commented: ‘This story is a disappointing reminder of just how far we have to go to defeat HIV. It is a remarkably tenacious virus, which exploits a number of “hiding places” inside the body to survive. Though daily drug treatments can keep it under control, once someone has contracted HIV they will have it for life. Using condoms remains the best strategy to avoid infection.

‘We’re fortunate in the UK to have a world-leading antenatal screening programme, which means that women living with HIV can have children safely, with a very small risk of the virus being passed on. In the western world we have the tools to ensure that no child is born with HIV, so cases like this are both rare and concerning.’