Sunday marked the 30th anniversary of the first cases of AIDS being reported in the United States. And although there is plenty of work still left to do, hope has never been brighter for finding a cure.
The latest example of that growing hope is Timothy Brown of San Francisco, the first person in the world apparently cured of AIDS. Brown was an American working in Berlin as a translator when he learned he had HIV in 1995.
After going on and off medicines, he was holding his own until 2006, when he was diagnosed with leukemia, which was unrelated to HIV. Chemotherapy left him so sick that he had to be put into a coma to allow his body to recover.
Dr. Gero Huetter, a blood cancer expert at the University of Berlin, knew that a transplant of blood stem cells was the best hope for a cure, despite it being a grueling and expensive process.
After a recurrence of leukemia, he decided to have the transplant and a match was found in 2007. A year later, his leukemia returned but HIV did not. He had a second transplant in March 2008. Now, Brown is off medication. “He’s now four years off his antiretroviral therapy and we have no evidence of HIV in any tissue or blood that we have tested,” even places where the virus can lie dormant for many years, Huetter said.
Brown’s success has provided hope for researchers of finding a cure or vaccine, although they know gene therapy is not something you can do around the world.
Nearly 30 million people have died of AIDS since the first five cases were recognized in Los Angeles in 1981.
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