‘Berlin Patient’: The First Person to be Cured of HIV Dies From Cancer
'Berlin Patient': The First Person to be Cured of HIV Dies From Cancer
The first person to be cured of HIV, Timothy Ray Brown – known as the ‘Berlin Patient’– has died after a battle with cancer, the International Aids Society (IAS) announced Wednesday.
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.
‘On behalf of all its members… the IAS sends its condolences to Timothy´s partner, Tim, and his family and friends,’ said IAS President Adeeba Kamarulzaman.
‘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 later, he decided to break his silence and went on to become a public figure, giving speeches and interviews and starting his own foundation.
‘I am living proof that there could be a cure for AIDS,’ he told AFP in 2012. ‘It’s very wonderful, being cured of HIV.’
Ten years after Brown was cured, a second HIV 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,’ she said.