The following is an article written by guest writer TRESSA S. EDWARDS, daughter of our intrepid editor. Originally published in her high school newsletter, Tressa has given us permission to post her article. Though the content is not typical for Two Rock Chronicles, we feel Tressa’s voice deserves to be heard, and look forward to her future contributions to the blog and to Two Rock Publishing.
New Hope in the Battle Against AIDS/HIV
Tressa S. Edwards
For the last 32 years, AIDS has been a somewhat mysterious disease, killing off nearly 30 million people since its discovery.
On June 5th, 1981, American Epidemiologists reported that five previously healthy men in LA had become ill. Two of them died, becoming the first lives claimed by a then unidentified virus. Now, over 33 million people are infected with the same virus that causes AIDS. Though there is now a name for it, a cure hasn’t yet been discovered. Or has it?
In 2007, a man known as the ‘Berlin Patient’ was cured of HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS. His name is Timothy Ray Brown and, at the time, was the only person on record to be cured of HIV. He received a life-saving (in more ways than one) bone marrow transplant for Leukemia. Found in the bone marrow was a gene mutation which made the newly produced white-blood cells resistant to infection while playing host to the HIV virus. Though he was lucky, not everyone can have that same opportunity. Aside from being incredibly painful, bone marrow transplants can be fatal or have severe side-effects. This rules them out as both practical and as a cure.
Recently, however, there was a baby who was cured of HIV. She was born to an unknowingly HIV-positive woman in rural Mississippi. Just 30 hours after she was born, her bloodstream was tainted with signs of the virus. She was indeed HIV positive, having most likely contracted the disease in the womb. After confirming her status as HIV-positive, she was transferred to the University of Mississippi Medical Center and given her first dose of AIDS medicine. Within a week, the viral load was almost undetectable. She was then continually treated for the next 18 months, until the mother disappeared with her child. She re-appeared some time later, telling doctors that she had not given her child her medication in over 5 months. The doctors assumed that the virus would have continued to replicate, and start to deteriorate the child’s immune system. However, they ran tests and found her to be HIV negative. After checking and rechecking the results, the young girl was deemed ‘cured’ by researchers at the University of Massachusetts, as well as John’s Hopkins. She is now 2 1/2 years old, and still HIV free.
So what does this mean for a cure? It means that those at risk of being born with HIV, as well as those already born with HIV, are given a possible chance to remove the virus from their systems. Though there are preventative measures already available for mothers who could potentially pass on the virus, they are not always effective. Instead of simply giving people a way to potentially prevent the disease from being passed on, there may be a way to now ensure that even if it is transferred, it doesn’t have to claim more lives. Scientists and researches along with doctors are figuring out ways to measure the proper dosage, and length of time which newborns need to be given the standard AIDS medicine for it to effectively remove the virus from their systems. Let us hope they find a way soon. In the mean time, we must remain proactive and aware.