Doctors Closer to HIV/AIDS Cure
After a 45-year-old who was diagnosed with AIDS in 1995 had a blood stem cell transplant in February 2007, he has had no sign of the disease in blood and tissue tests. This has made Timothy Ray Brown, from San Francisco, the only person in the world to be cured of HIV and has given doctors hope that they can get grip on the pandemic and that other approaches will lead to a cure. At least, doctors hope that people will have the chance to control AIDS without the need for everyday medication.
It has been 30 years since the first 5 cases of AIDS were recognised by the US in 1981, and since then almost 30 million have died from it. Currently, there are about 34 million people with HIV in the world - over 1 million of which are in the US - while 2 million die from the disease every year. In the US, newly diagnosed patients are given a life expectancy of just a few months less than people who don’t have the disease, while most of the annual deaths are in poor nations.
In Brown’s case, he was living in Germany and was going on and off medication because of side effects. He was then diagnosed with leukemia in 2006 and was put into a coma so that his body could recover from the chemotherapy. The doctors didn’t know if he would survive, he said.
University of Berlin blood cancer expert Dr Gero Huetter knew that a blood stem cell transplant was his best shot at curing the leukemia, but he had read that 1% of whites have genetic mutations that allow them to resist HIV - thus, his aimed much higher than just curing the cancer. Brown was against doing the procedure, which many people die from since it entails having to destroy the body’s immune system with radiation and chemotherapy. However, his mind was changed when the cancer returned.
Huetter found over 200 possible donors in the registry and began to test them for the HIV resistance gene, which turned up a 25-year-old German male living in the US. Since the February 2007 transplant, Brown hasn’t had any signs of the disease. However, his leukemia returned in 2008, and he had a second transplant in March that year.