Functional Cure Versus Cure

It was widely reported this month by a variety of news sources including USA Today’s that a baby was “cured” of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Then we heard the same baby was “functionally cured”.

 Confused?  Me too!

First it’s important to understand that HIV is.  According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) AIDS Info we learn that HIV is “the virus that causes AIDS, which is the most advanced stage of HIV infection” 

We also discover, from the AIDS Info page, that a mother who has HIV can give the virus to her baby during pregnancy, during labor and delivery, or by breastfeeding.

 In the US News article,  “Researchers Describe 1st Functional Cure of HIV Baby” we learn …a “functional” cure — meaning the virus is in remission even without medications.”   The article goes on to define “…a “sterilizing cure”  — when there are absolutely no traces of HIV in the body”.    In  a 2012 article by Dr. Martin Ahmad Khan, a functional cure is defined as  “long-term control of HIV in the absence of HAART” and a “sterilizing cure [an] elimination of all HIV-infected cells”. A functional cure is not a sterilizing cure.

On June 5, 1981, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly published a report on a group of men who all had a serious infection that attacked their immune systems. It was the first published account of AIDS. EVMS Assistant Professor Dr. Laura Beth Gadkowsky reported that although the cases of AIDSin Hampton Roads is very high, “there hasn’t been a baby exposed to HIV actually born infected” due to her efforts along with those of Dr. Bonnie Dattel.  Without doubt great strides in research have been made, including the report of the baby who is “functionally cured of HIV, to date AIDS is considered a chronic disease.

Castellano, A., (2013, March 4).  Mississippi baby born with HIV “functionally cured,” doctors say. Retrieved from

Gardner, A., (2013, March 3). Researchers describe 1st functional cure of HIV baby.  Retrieved from

Gottlieb, M.S., Schanker, M.H.,  Fan, P.T., Saxon, A., &  Weisman J.D. (1981).  Pneumocystis pneumonia — Los Angeles.  Morbidity and Mortality Weekly, 30(21), 1-3.  Retrieved from

 Khan, M. A. (2012). Has a time to talk about cure of AIDS arrived? International Journal of Collaborative Research on Internal Medicine & Public Health, 4,981-100. 

Scientists say baby born with  HIV apparently cured. (2013, March 4). Associated Press. Retrieved from

 Szabo, L., (2013, March 4). Doctors report first cure of HIV in a child.  Retrieved from

R. Smith
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