It wasn’t that long that testing positive for HIV was the worst news a doctor could give a patient. To this day, it remains a virulent strain that resists any attempts at destroying it. But there was one person in history to get “cured” and now, through the miracle of science, there’s a second patient who is HIV negative. But does this signal that a cure is within reach?
Well, according to Hiv Plus Mag, we shouldn’t get distracted by the use of the word “cure” just yet. Instead, we should understand that the patient is in remission. They wrote, “A professor and HIV biologist who co-led a team of doctors treating the London Patient, has specifically referred to him as “in remission,” explaining to Reuters, “It’s too early to say he’s cured.” But even if the media is latching on to the word “cure,” there are a lot of reasons why everyone should be celebrating this monumental breakthrough!
The Worst Virus Ever
There are millions of people infected with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) and it has claimed many lives around the world. HIV doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care what age, race, or gender you are. Anyone is vulnerable and until now, the prognosis was grim. But over the past few days, news has spread of a patient in London who is HIV-free. Now, before we talk about the second patient to be cured, let’s talk about the first patient.
The Berlin Patient
In 1995, Timothy Ray Brown, aka, the Berlin Patient, was diagnosed with HIV. Doctors used antiretroviral drugs to slow down the progress of the virus for over a decade. But he developed acute myeloid leukemia. He received radiation and chemotherapy to treat his secondary health ailment. But then, doctors came up with an unconventional treatment. Brown was given a stem cell transplant from a patient who had a genetic mutation known as CCR5 delta 32, which offers resistance to HIV. This mutation triggered an immunity that led to Timothy being cured of HIV in 2007. To this day, he has remained HIV-negative and now, he’s using his second chance at life to help others through the Timothy Ray Brown Foundation, which is dedicated to fighting HIV and AIDS. Up until now, he had been the only patient to be in remission.
The London Patient
The London Patient, who’s chosen to stay anonymous, was diagnosed with HIV in 2003. In 2012, he developed Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. So, doctors looked for a donor with a genetic mutation called CCR5 delta 32, which proved to be HIV resistant in the past. But when the transplant was complete, the London Patient’s treatment took a surprising turn for the better, much to everyone’s relief. But there was a minor setback.
Graft Versus Host
The London Patient suffered from “graft-versus-host” disease, which is caused by the donor’s immune system attacking the recipient’s immune cells. Thankfully, this was only temporary. But when the side effects subsided, doctors were stunned to discover that the London Patient’s HIV infection was gone, too.
Too Early To Say
Dr. Ravindra Gupta, one of the HIV biologists who treated the London Patient says that the man is HIV-free and in remission. But he warns that it’s too early to say if he has been completely cured. In the meantime, many started to notice a pattern. Both the London Patient and The Berlin Patient received transplants containing the CCR5 mutation and both of them experienced the “graft-versus-host” side effect. This suggests that the CCR5 mutation alone isn’t the only main factor in possibly curing HIV once and for all.
Goals For A Cure
The CCR5 mutation may provide a cure someday, but there’s still a lot to do before that happens. First there’s the fact that only people of northern European descent seem to carry the mutation. Then there are three major goals to consider. Minimizing the HIV viral loads to keep the virus from replicating further remains a main priority. Stopping the virus from spreading is also important and so is restoring the patient’s original immune system. And while the virus continues to be classified as curable, it is very much a controlled virus. So, these two special cases might give HIV patients a glimmer of hope that a cure might be available in the near future.
I am Camila – Serial tea drinker. Professional wig snatcher. Content creator and video script writer who may or may not be John Leguizamo’s body double. If you don’t like where you are, move. You’re not a tree.