First human to be cured of HIV, Timothy Ray Brown – known as the ‘Berlin Patient‘ – has died after a battle with cancer.
International Aids Society (IAS) made the announcement on Wednesday, September 30.
The 54-year-old made medical history and became a symbol of hope for the tens of millions of people living with the virus that causes AIDS when he was cured more than a decade ago.
He had been living with a recurrence of leukaemia for several months and received hospice care at his home in Palm Springs, California.
IAS President, Adeeba Kamarulzaman stated;
ON BEHALF OF ALL ITS MEMBERS… THE IAS SENDS ITS CONDOLENCES TO TIMOTHY´S PARTNER, TIM, AND HIS FAMILY AND FRIENDS.
WE OWE TIMOTHY AND HIS DOCTOR, GERO HUTTER, A GREAT DEAL OF GRATITUDE FOR OPENING THE DOOR FOR SCIENTISTS TO EXPLORE THE CONCEPT THAT A CURE FOR HIV IS POSSIBLE.
Brown was diagnosed with HIV while was studying in Berlin in 1995. A decade later, he was diagnosed with leukaemia, a cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow.
To treat his leukaemia, his doctor at the Free University of Berlin used a stem cell transplant from a donor who had a rare genetic mutation that gave him natural resistance to HIV, hoping it may wipe out both diseases.
It took two painful and dangerous procedures, but it was a success: in 2008, Brown was declared free of the two ailments, and was initially dubbed “the Berlin Patient” at a medical conference to preserve his anonymity.
Two years after his successful treatment, he decided to break his silence and went on to become a public figure, giving speeches and interviews and starting his own foundation.
Speaking with AFP in 2012, Brown said;
I AM LIVING PROOF THAT THERE COULD BE A CURE FOR AIDS. IT’S VERY WONDERFUL, BEING CURED OF HIV.
However, while Brown remained clear of HIV for more than a decade after being treated, he had suffered a relapse of leukaemia in the past year.
Ten years after Brown was cured of HIV, a second sufferer — dubbed “the London Patient” — was revealed to be in remission 19 months after undergoing a similar procedure.
The patient, Adam Castillejo, is currently HIV-free. In August, a California woman was reported to have no traces of HIV despite not using anti-retroviral treatment.
It is thought she may be the first person to be cured of HIV without undergoing the risky bone marrow treatment.
Sharon Lewin, president-elect of the IAS and director of the Doherty Institute in Melbourne, Australia, praised Brown as a “champion and advocate” of a cure for HIV.
IT IS THE HOPE OF THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY THAT ONE DAY WE CAN HONOUR HIS LEGACY WITH A SAFE, COST-EFFECTIVE AND WIDELY ACCESSIBLE STRATEGY TO ACHIEVE HIV REMISSION AND CURS USING GENE EDITION OR TECHNIQUES THAT BOOST IMMUNE CONTROL.