This rare event presented at the HIV-AIDS conference in Vancouver represents the longest remission of a patient infected at birth with HIV. Medical experts believe early treatment was the key to control the infection. Otherwise, they insist the French teenage girl is not cured. She still has the virus in her, but it did not manifest itself for a little over a decade.

Remission is characterized by the decrease or complete extinction of chronic diseases symptoms throughout a span of time. It is often associated with cancers through the stabilization of tumor cells.

Upon finding the girl was infected because of her mother transmission, she received a prophylactic treatment with zidovudine. Two months later, she had to follow a heavier treatment with four antiretroviral drugs since her viral levels skyrocketed. Then, her parents decided to stop the treatment while not consulting the doctors altogether.

A year after the treatment’s interruption, the doctors were surprised to see the viral load was undetectable in her blood as described by Dr. Asier Saez-Cirion. Today, the girl’s immune defense system is still able to control the virus. Therefore she has been in remission for 12 years.

Dr. Asier Saez-Cirion said the girl “does not have the genetic factors associated with a natural control of the infection” bolstering the fact that “the combination of antiretroviral drugs following her infection has enabled her to be in remission for so long.”

            The infection control represented by an undetectable viral load does not mean the girl may not carry the virus to her child during pregnancy (the risks are "only" minimized by 95% according to experts). She would unlikely transmit HIV to her child, but this remains a possibility.  

In a 2013 report, a team of experts led by Dr. Christine Rouzioux and Dr. Asier Saez-Cirion from Institut Pasteur de Paris came to the conclusion that 14 patients had been in remission for 8 years thanks to the early treatment which strengthened their immune defense system and prevented the infection from spreading. This week’s findings seem to highlight the importance of automatic screening tests and antiretroviral drugs treatment.

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