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Thad C.
Republican MS

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  • Recognizing Dr. Hannah Gay

    by Senator Thad Cochran

    Posted on 2013-03-12

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    COCHRAN. Madam President, today I rise to recognize the work of Dr. Hannah Gay, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center's Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children in Jackson, MS. On March 3, the news broke that one of Dr. Gay's patients, a baby born with the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, had been ``functionally cured'' of the infection. Now 2\1/2\ years old, this child is only the second person in history to be cured of the virus. The infant was born to her HIV-infected mother at a rural Mississippi hospital and then transported to the University of Mississippi Medical Center, where she came under the care of Dr. Gay. Only 30 hours after the baby was born, Dr. Gay began an immediate and aggressive approach to treatment that seems to have made all the difference in this child's life.

    News of Dr. Gay's work and this baby's apparent cure has been celebrated around the world. This development opens a significant door to advance research and treatment for HIV and AIDS, the acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Millions of children around the globe have been infected at or during birth, and it is my hope that the spread of HIV among newborns will begin to slow and eventually stop with what has taken place in Mississippi what one doctor at Johns Hopkins University Medical School called a ``game-changer.'' I share the pride of all Mississippians in Dr. Gay, a native of Jackson, for her achievement and her dedication to our State. She not only teaches and practices at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, but received her training there. As a mostly rural State, Mississippi faces many health care challenges, and our homegrown health care providers give us the best chance of finding solutions so that Mississippians can live healthy lives. Dr. Gay's work at the University of Mississippi Medical Center is addressing critical needs in our State with the potential to impact other countries and regions that struggle with the scourge of HIV.

    Congratulations, again, to Dr. Gay and her colleagues. Thanks to them, one child has the opportunity to lead a normal, healthy life, and we may be one step closer to ending the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. I wish all the best to researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other institutions as they explore the potential for Dr. Gay's method of treatment. I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record the Clarion Ledger article from March 7, 2013, titled: ``Congratulations in order for Dr. Hannah Gay, UMC.'' There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: Congratulations in Order for Dr. Hannah Gay, UMC [From ClarionLedger.com, Mar. 7, 2013] Yes, great things do happen in Mississippi.

    That's something we've known all along. But the rest of the world seems to see us sometimes as a caricature of the lists we make--high in obesity, low in education and income.

    But recent news that a baby born with HIV was likely cured at the University of Mississippi Medical Center by pediatrician Dr. Hannah Gay is something so powerful that the rest of the world could not help but notice.

    Globally, it is arguably one of the most important stories to come along in years for the health community--real hope that HIV, [[Page S1706]] the virus that causes AIDS, can be cured. That's why when the case was presented at the 20th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta last Sunday, the story made headlines in newspapers throughout the world.

    The story is: A baby was born to an HIV-positive mother at a rural hospital who was then transported to Jackson's UMC. At 30 hours old, the baby tested HIV positive and Dr. Gay, a pediatric HIV specialist at the hospital, put the baby on an intensive drug therapy that continued until the child was 18 months of age. Tests along the way showed a progressively lower viral presence in the infant's blood until it reached undetectable levels at 29 days of age. The child, a little girl, is now 2\1/2\ years old. She is healthy, with a normal immune system--meaning she is considered HIV free.

    The child is only the second person in history according to health experts to have been cured of the HIV virus. It is also described as the first ``functional cure'' of an HIV- infected infant, which could lead to eliminating HIV in children throughout the world altogether.

    And, it happened right here in Mississippi.

    It's not that we are surprised. UMC and its staff, comprising more than 9,000 full and part-time employees, have long been known for excellence. It is Mississippi's only academic health science center, which strives to educate tomorrow's health care professionals and eliminate differences in health status of Mississippians based on race, geography, income or social status.

    The stories of success over the years are too many to list here. But it's important at this critical moment, as UMC and Dr. Gay stand at the center of the world health stage for work that could ultimately change the fortunes for so many around the world, that we celebrate this accomplishment.

    We congratulate UMC, Dr. Gay and the thousands of others who work for and with Mississippi's outstanding health facility. If there was any doubt before, the world certainly knows now--we do great things in Mississippi.


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