God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensée of a Catholic priest

Signs of hope – remission without long-term treatment

At the recent conference of the International Aids Society in Paris it was a topic hotly discussed by academics, researchers and representatives of NGO’s:

A 9-year-old South African child diagnosed with HIV when he was 1 month old has been in HIV remission for 8½ years — without regular treatment. This is the first reported case of a child controlling their HIV infection without drugs in Africa and the third known case globally. The related research was conducted among others by Prof Dr Mark Cotton, board member of our HOPE Cape Town Association.

Soon after diagnosis, the child was placed on antiretroviral treatment, or ART, for 40 weeks, at which point treatment was stopped and the child’s health was monitored. Blood tests in late 2015 revealed the child is in HIV remission, meaning levels of the virus in the blood are undetectable using standard tests. Subsequent testing of samples dating back to the child’s infancy confirm remission was achieved soon after treatment was stopped. Treatment was paused as part of a larger research trial investigating the potential for early ART to decrease infant mortality and cut the need for lifelong treatment among newborns infected with HIV. “This is really very rare,” said Dr. Avy Violari, head of pediatric clinical trials at the Perinatal HIV Research Unit at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. Violari is the child’s doctor and presented the findings at the 9th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Science in Paris

The child, not identified, was part of a study known as the Children with HIV Early Anti-retroviral Therapy, or CHER, trial, conducted in the years 2005 to 2011. More than 370 infants infected with HIV were randomly assigned to immediately receive ART for either 40 weeks or 96 weeks. A third group received no immediate treatment, but instead was looked after according to standard guidelines at the time. The CHER trial set out to investigate whether mortality rates could be reduced, but also whether earlier treatment could keep children healthy enough to enable them to come off treatment for certain periods. “We were hoping to make it a slower-progressing disease,” said Violari.

The study found mortality decreased by 76% and HIV disease progression reduced by 75% among the infants who received treatment immediately, for 40 or 96 weeks. The group receiving standard treatment saw an increase in mortality based on interim results, so that arm of the trial was stopped early. But virus levels in the 9-year-old case remained and remain undetectable. “The child is the only child showing remission,” said Violari. “We cannot see virus in the blood … we can see fragments of the virus in the cells,” she said, adding that these fragments appear not to be able to replicate, for now.

The South African child is the third reported case of long-term HIV remission in a child after early, limited treatment with antiretroviral drugs.

The first case was a Mississippi baby, a girl born in 2010, who received ART just 30 hours after birth until she was 18 months old, at which point HIV remission was achieved. The baby sustained remission for 27 months, until 2015, when she rebounded and the virus was found in her blood, crushing hopes that this approach could be the route to a “functional cure” for HIV. Next came the 2015 case of a French teenager, now 20, whose mother was HIV positive. The French child was given antiretroviral treatment soon after birth, stopped treatment at age 6 and has maintained undetectable levels of the virus in her blood since.

“We are delighted and excited by what happened with this child … we need to extrapolate from this to the benefit of other children on antiretroviral drugs,” said Prof Mark Cotton, Professor of Pediatrics at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, who co-led the study. “Africa is still the epicenter of the epidemic and more babies are acquiring HIV than anywhere else.”

Cotton hopes his team presenting these results will boost morale, both among cure researchers and those managing treatment programs for children across the continent.

More links:

Hope for future HIV cure revived
It is really very rare
Without drugs

Filed under: Africa, HIV and AIDS, HIV Treatment, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Medical and Research, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

IAS conference 2017

Fragments of thoughts and impressions

It is my first IAS conference I have attended and compared with the World Aids conference it is a smaller crowd: round about 6000 people from all over the world coming in Paris together to discuss developments in the fields of HIV and Aids.

The first impression is that the conference is much more academic and discerning – it feels that most talks and presentations are indeed on a much higher academic level then at local Aids Conferences or the big world conference.

I am staying at a hotel outside Paris in Nanterre a commune in the Hauts-de-Seine department, the western suburbs of Paris. It is located some 11 km north-west of the centre of Paris. It feels strange – and from the beginning I can feel people have to live in a way which does not support human interaction – it feels cold, just doing the job of housing people without consideration on the human desire to live in a nice and friendly environment. It’s a sort of shock for somebody living in South Africa – it is strange but it feels like as soul-less place. The hotel is situated on top of a commuter train tunnel and station – every now and then one can feel the coming and going of a train while laying in bed.
So I guess all is there to sustain living and working, there are high rising buildings and all kind of services, but the thought I take with is that I can understand such suburbs create problems and even violence.

The mix of people here is amazing – mostly and certainly from the African region of Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco – it feels non-European in a European way – figure it out what it means.

And travelling to the conference centre – using the train and the metro – being part of a huge crowd in the morning and evening entering and exiting the dark alleys of the underground world – being part of the endless movements of people pushing their way through the crowd to reach their daily destiny – it is breath-taking – but not in the usual sense of the word. I definitely recall all my blessings living with some space and lots of day light in South Africa.

The conference itself is for a non scientific person sometimes difficult to follow – but I guess it is not about the exact details of every molecule one has to understand, the sheer feeling of understanding the principle – the idea behind all the details – the sometimes keen thoughts and trials and errors are a fascinating mental adventure – it stimulates my brain and forces me to read and study and “google”  – I have to admit that is a great experience to be beamed for a while into an environment really challenging you on knowledge and understanding.
But I believe that people running organisations must have at least a grasp about the background work done and the driving forces behind new developments before they reach the grass-root scene to be put into practice. Fruitful communication, bridging the gap between science and grass-root as HOPE Cape Town is trying to achieve on a daily base means for those in charge constant learning and communication with all spheres of their work environment.

Last but not least it was great meeting people from other countries and engaging in discussions – learning from each other and about each other and feeling the compassion of trying to rid the world of a viral onslaught. And yes, there is of course also lots of business – lots of calculation, but even there, you very often sense that those being employed in the big pharmaceutical companies understand that there is humanity needed in business. The connectivity of the global village, the threat that a virus can easily come and bite those far away helped indeed to change some of the attitudes which governed such entities a decade ago. Surely there is still lots to optimize and clarify – a balance must be put into place between commerce and humanity but I guess the battles of treatment have brought some clarity and movement into the field. Well, a watchful eye seems to be always necessary when it comes to that topic.

I will leave Paris tomorrow with lots of new understanding about the work done in the laboratories of this world. I leave proud knowing that our very board member of HOPE Cape Town, Prof Mark Cotton co-chaired the CHER study which produced one of the most published results of the conference: the child for 9 years in remission after being treated as a baby. I leave motivated knowing how many people dedicated their lives and career to fight back a pandemic which brought so much death and sorrow onto human mankind. It simply feels great to be part of a movement which has the goal to end a pandemic and give people a chance to live life and sexuality without fear. To live and to love to the utmost in their lifetime.

The only question I was wondering – how many other priests or clergy have been to this conference – not that it really matters but it would be nice to know that more of my fellow brothers are engaged on this level in a matter of live and death for millions in this world.

 

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Networking, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , ,

A day at the conference..

6 am is a good time for a quick email review session before breakfast and bus transfer to the Convention Center downtown.  At 8.40 am the plenary session starts going on till 10.30 am and covering important topics. Today it was the question of prevention under the headline “turning the tide”.  11 am meeting with a group organized by the International AIDS Society for a review of the conference so far and an exchange amongst delegates. After that a brief meeting with a possible partner before heading to the next appointment with a doctor and priest from Hawaii who considers to work in Africa after retirement. What are the conditions for such an idea, what is possible, what is needed?
Further networking and revisiting some of the booths for more information intake before at 6.30 pm the next event starts with Stephen Lewis, the former adviser to Kofi Annan on HIV/AIDS in Africa. As usual he finds clear words on the situation and one wishes for more straight forward talk on the conference.
At 8.45 the bus is bringing us back to the hotel in Arlington.
And after another check on the emails, it is time to sort out everything for tomorrows day. Planing is everything, workshops, talks and networking needs coordination to succeed in having a successful day. But until then some rest is needed…

IAS Research Meeting

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, Medical and Research, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

13th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenOctober 27th, 2018
10 months to go.

Ball of HOPE 2018

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 12th, 2018
5 months to go.

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© Rev Fr Stefan Hippler and HIV, AIDS and HOPE.
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