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First man cured of HIV dies of cancer

The first person to be cured of HIV, Timothy Ray Brown, has died of cancer, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports.

Timothy Ray Brown
The late Timothy Ray Brown

This was contained in a statement issued by Bijan Farnoudi, Communication and Public Affairs Director, International AIDS Society (IAS), and made available to NAN via email, on Wednesday, September 30, 2020 in Ibadan, Oyo State.

Brown, known, as the “Berlin Patient”, died on Tuesday after battling with a recurrence of leukaemia for several months. He was aged 54.

IAS, in the statement, said that Brown made medical history when he became the first person to be cured of HIV in 2008, after undergoing a complex stem cell transplant for lymphoma.

“For the past six months, Timothy had been living with a recurrence of the leukaemia that had entered his spine and brain. He had remained HIV-free.

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“On behalf of all its members and the Governing Council, the IAS sends its condolences to Timothy’s partner, Tim and his family and friends.

“We owe Timothy and his doctor, Gero Hütter, a great deal of gratitude for opening the door for scientists to explore the concept that a cure for HIV is possible,” Adeeba Kamarulzaman, IAS President and Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases at the University of Malaya, said.

According to the statement, Brown, living with HIV and with acute myeloid leukaemia, received a bone marrow transplant in Berlin, Germany, in 2007.

“The donor was naturally resistant to HIV infection because of a mutation in the CCR5 gene, a critical protein required by HIV to enter and infect cells.

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“Timothy stopped antiretroviral therapy (ART) very soon after the transplant and he remained free of any detectable virus.

“In other words, he was cured. His experience suggested that HIV might one day be curable. This fuelled a range of efforts by researchers and institutions, focusing on HIV cure research”, it stated.

Ten years after Brown was cured, a second HIV sufferer, known as “the London Patient”, remained in remission 19 months after undergoing a similar procedure and he is considered to be the second man to be cured of HIV.

“Although the cases of Timothy and Adam are not a viable large-scale strategy for a cure, they do represent a critical moment in the search for an HIV cure.

“Timothy was a champion and advocate for keeping an HIV cure on the political and scientific agenda.

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“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 cure, using gene-editing or techniques that boost immune control,” the statement quoted IAS President-elect, Prof. Sharon Lewin, as saying.

In August, Loreen Willenberg, a woman, who had been living with HIV since 1992, reportedly had no traces of intact HIV despite not using ART.

“She may be the first person cured of HIV without undergoing a risky bone marrow transplant.

“Researchers believe that she may be an ‘extreme elite controller’, where only fragments of HIV remain and these fragments are unable to replicate,” it stated.

By Oluwbukola Akanni

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