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Medical community responds to baby's cure of HIV

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

"Very remarkable!" That was Dr. Arti Barnes' reaction when she heard the news an infant treated at Batson Children's Hospital was functionally cured of HIV.

Her work at Open Arms Healthcare Center in Jackson has given Barnes insight on when mother's to be should have testing.

"I think our health systems are really good at doing the initial testing during the first trimester and the first pre-natal visit. We're not as good at repeating HIV testing towards the last trimester," said Barnes.

She says 98% of babies can be free of HIV if the expecting mother is treated.

Barnes believes the treatment happens a great deal in the U.S. and the findings at Batson will have a global impact.

"I think this would have tremendous implications internationally in the developing world if they can start more aggressive regimens on children sooner," explained Barnes.

The infectious disease specialist has a real interest in whether the case at Batson could have an impact on adults with HIV and treatment in the early stages, called acute HIV.

Barnes has been in Mississippi for a little more than two years, she says there is a huge disparity in her patients who have an STD and are pregnant. She says African-Americans girls are more likely to need help at Open Arms.

"A lot of women come to me for STD testing and they don't quite grasp that not using condoms equals getting pregnant," explained Barnes. 

She says data has revealed 30-40% of Mississippi children have their first sexual experience before age 12. That's why she believes more sex education should be taught at an earlier age.

"Give them the opportunity to even ask questions about testing during pregnancy, where can they go," Barnes. 

She says there are many scientific questions yet to be answered about the case at Batson's, such as did genetics play a role? What medicine regimen was used? And others...

Barnes knows children and adults react differently to treatments but she is excited about the possibilities the case at Batson now creates.

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