Timothy Ray Brown who made history as the first person to be cured of HIV has died from cancer.
Brown’s death was confirmed by his partner Tim Hoeffgen on Facebook. Hoeffgen said Brown passed away surrounded by friends, after a five-month battle with leukaemia.
Brown, who was also known as “the Berlin patient”, was cured of HIV in 2008 after undergoing a complex stem cell transplant for acute leukaemia.
He no longer needed anti-viral drugs and he remained free of the virus, which can lead to Aids until his untimely demise after he received a bone marrow transplant from a donor who was naturally resistant to HIV 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.
Unfortunately Brown had been living with a recurrence of the leukaemia that had entered his spine and brain for the past six months.
In a statement, the International AIDS Society (IAS) said Brown’s experience gave the world hope that HIV might one day be curable. Brown’s experience inspired a range of efforts by researchers and institutions focusing on HIV cure research.
Brown who was born in the United States, was diagnosed with HIV in 1995 while living in Berlin. The treatment Brown received involved destroying his bone marrow, which was producing the cancerous cells and then having a bone marrow transplant.
The procedure that resulted in Brown’s cure has not gained traction because it is too risky to be done routinely and too expensive for the 38 million people believed to be living HIV positive.
IAS says a second patient, Adam Castillejo, was cured of HIV after undergoing treatment similar to Brown’s. Castillejo also known as the London Patient, remains in HIV remission off ART after receiving a bone marrow transplant for Hodgkin’s lymphoma from a CCR5-negative donor.