Being cured of HIV is 'wonderful,' US man says

July 25, 2012 by Jean-Louis Santini

The only person believed to have been cured of HIV infection through a bone marrow transplant said Tuesday he feels wonderful and is launching a new foundation to boost research toward a cure.

Timothy Ray Brown, 47, an American from Seattle, Washington, rose to fame as the so-called "Berlin patient" after doctors tried a to use an HIV-resistant donor for a to treat Brown's leukemia.

Since 2007, he has had two high-risk bone marrow transplants and continues to test negative for HIV, stunning researchers and offering new pathways for research into how may lead to a more widely acceptable approach.

"I am living proof that there could be a cure for AIDS," Brown told AFP in an interview. "It's very wonderful, being cured of HIV."

Brown looked frail as he spoke to reporters in Washington where the 19th International AIDS Conference, the world's largest meeting of scientific experts, and advocates is taking place.

The he received carried significant risks and may be fatal to one in five patients who undergo it. But he said his only complaint these days is the occasional headache.

He also said he was aware that his condition has generated some controversy, but disputed the claims of some scientists who believe he may still have traces of HIV in his body and may remain infectious to others.

"Yes, I am cured," he said. "I am HIV negative."

Brown said he fully supports more aggressive efforts toward finding a universal cure, and has met with a number of top scientists in recent days who have treated him "like a rock star."

He said he hopes to harness some of that fame to encourage donors to fund more research, and noted that Europe and China spend far more on cure research than the United States.

"There are thousands of very able researchers who cannot get funded for research, so I want to change that. And there are a lot of researchers who are willing to work to find a cure for HIV."

Brown was a student in Berlin, Germany, when he tested positive for HIV in 1995 and was told he probably had about two years to live.

But combination antiretroviral therapy emerged on the global market a year later, and eventually transformed HIV from a death sentence into a manageable condition for millions of people worldwide.

Brown tolerated the medications well but due to persistent fatigue he visited a doctor in 2006 and was diagnosed with leukemia. He underwent chemotherapy, which led to pneumonia and sepsis, nearly killing him.

His doctor, Gero Huetter, had the idea of trying a bone marrow transplant using a donor who had a CCR5 receptor mutation.

People without that receptor appear to be resistant to HIV because they lack the gateway through which the virus can enter the cells. But such people are rare, and are believed to consist of one percent of the northern European population.

It would be an attempt to cure cancer and HIV at the same time.

Brown's leukemia returned in 2007, and he underwent a bone marrow transplant using stem cells from a CCR5 mutation donor, whom he has never met in person. He stopped taking antiretrovirals at the same time.

He soon had no HIV detectable in his system. His leukemia returned though, and he underwent a second transplant in 2008, using stem cells from the same donor.

Brown said his recovery from the second operation was more complicated and left him with some neurological problems, but he continues to be free of and HIV.

Asked if he feels like his was a miracle, Brown was hesitant to answer.

"It's hard to say. It depends on your religious belief, if you want to believe it's just medical science or it was a divine intervention," he told AFP. "I would say it's a little bit of both."

Explore further: Man believed cured of AIDS says he's still cured

Related Stories

Man believed cured of AIDS says he's still cured

July 24, 2012
(AP) — The first person believed to have been cured of AIDS says reports he still has the HIV virus are false.

HIV may have returned in 'cured' patient: scientists

June 13, 2012
An American man whose HIV seemed to disappear after a blood marrow transplant for leukemia may be showing new hints of the disease, sparking debate over whether a cure was really achieved.

AIDS cure may have two main pathways: experts (Update)

July 24, 2012
Investigators are looking into two main paths toward a cure for AIDS, based on the stunning stories of a small group of people around the world who have been able to overcome the disease.

Recommended for you

Scientists find where HIV 'hides' to evade detection by the immune system

October 19, 2017
In a decades-long game of hide and seek, scientists from Sydney's Westmead Institute for Medical Research have confirmed for the very first time the specific immune memory T-cells where infectious HIV 'hides' in the human ...

National roll-out of PrEP HIV prevention drug would be cost-effective

October 18, 2017
Providing pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication to men who have sex with men who are at high risk of HIV infection (equivalent to less than 5% of men who have sex with men at any point in time) in England would be cost-effective, ...

Regulatory T cells harbor HIV/SIV virus during antiviral drug treatment

October 17, 2017
Scientists at Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University have identified an additional part of the HIV reservoir, immune cells that survive and harbor the virus despite long-term treatment with antiviral drugs.

New research opens the door to 'functional cure' for HIV

October 17, 2017
In findings that open the door to a completely different approach to curing HIV infections, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have for the first time shown that a novel compound effectively ...

Researchers create molecule that could 'kick and kill' HIV

October 5, 2017
Current anti-AIDS drugs are highly effective at making HIV undetectable and allowing people with the virus to live longer, healthier lives. The treatments, a class of medications called antiretroviral therapy, also greatly ...

A sixth of new HIV patients in Europe 50 or older: study

September 27, 2017
People aged 50 and older comprise a growing percentage of HIV patients in Europe, accounting for one in six new cases in 2015, researchers said Wednesday.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.