HIV/AIDS expert available from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to provide external comments on the first cure of HIV in a child
Scientists have reported at the latest CROI meeting the first cure of HIV in a child. Since the outset of the epidemic, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has been involved in research and treatment of pediatric HIV/AIDS. Patricia M. Flynn, M.D., is the director of Clinical Research in the Infectious Diseases department at St. Jude and director of the HIV clinic, and is available to offer insights into this exciting new finding that provides hope for infants who are at high risk of infection are diagnosed with HIV infection very early.
•In the 1980s, St. Jude began treating hemophilia patients who developed HIV and later expanded the program to focus on infants born to HIV-infected mothers. •In 1992, the hospital received a federal grant to establish the Pediatric AIDS Clinical Trials Unit. The funding allowed St. Jude to participate in the first national, landmark study to reduce the transmission of HIV from mother to infant. •The results were significant. The ACTG-76 study showed that HIV transmission was reduced by two-thirds when the antiretroviral drug zidovudine, or AZT, was given to infected women during pregnancy and to babies shortly after birth.
•Mother-to-child transmission rates continued to decline nationally, with St. Jude helping reduce the numbers in Memphis, Tenn., where the hospital is based.
•In the past nine years, fewer than 20 babies have been born with HIV in the Memphis area. In 2010, only one baby was born to an HIV-infected mother. That number dwindled to zero in 2011.
•Current research at St. Jude continues to monitor the long-term effects of therapy in infants who were exposed to HIV but who do not have the virus themselves.
•As prevention improved in infants, a spike in HIV-infection rates among teens and young adults in the late 1990s led St. Jude to shift its focus and expand research and prevention programs targeting teens and adolescents. These included the Reaching for Excellence in Adolescent Care and Health (REACH) behavioral study and the Adolescent Trials Group. Through the latter, St. Jude and a network of community partners provide HIV education and intervention programs that target general and high-risk populations, encourage testing and help to de-stigmatize HIV/AIDS.
•Flynn has also been instrumental in helping develop community projects such as the Community HIV Network and Connect to Protect, which focuses on education, testing and linking HIV-infection people into care.