March 6, 2013 10:21:30 AM
Generally, when Mississippi makes national news -- especially of late -- it is not the sort of notoriety we welcome.
When "Mississippi'' is mentioned on the national stage, our first impulse is to wince, waiting for the latest lunacy that is certain to follow.
In recent weeks, our state has been the staple of comedians and, painful though it may be, we have only ourselves to blame. More accurately, we have only our elected officials to blame, politicians whose misguided, knee-jerk or crazy ideas continually cast the state as backward, intolerant or simply goofy.
So Sunday, when Mississippi again made national news, we braced ourselves for the embarrassment that was sure to follow.
Only this time, it wasn't anything to be embarrassed about.
On Monday, it was reported a child treated at Batson Children's Hospital in Jackson had become the first child -- and just the second person -- to have been cured of the HIV infection that leads to AIDS, a cure that can be mainly attributed to Dr. Hannah Gay, a University of Mississippi Medical Center pediatric infectious disease specialist.
When the child, whose name has not been made public, was diagnosed with HIV just hours after birth, Gay decided to begin treating the child immediately, with the first dose of antivirals given within 31 hours of birth. That's faster than most infants born with HIV get treated, and specialists think it's one important factor in the child's cure.
In addition, Gay gave higher-than-usual, "therapeutic" doses of three powerful HIV drugs rather than the "prophylactic" doses usually given in these circumstances.
Over the months, the baby thrived, and standard tests could detect no virus in her blood, which is the normal result from antiviral treatment. After losing contact with the child for almost a year, Gay was successful in tracking down the infant and subsequent testing revealed that even without continuing treatment, the child showed no evidence of HIV. In short, the child was cured.
The implications of Gay's work are potentially staggering. More than a 1,000 children a year are born with HIV, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and other developing countries.
While much research lies ahead, Gay's work with the child may someday be considered a major breakthrough in the fight against AIDS.
The record will show that the ground-breaking work began in Mississippi and was performed by a Mississippi-educated doctor.
And, for once, that's nothing to laugh at.
1. Possumhaw: And then there was rain LOCAL COLUMNS