The First Person Cured of HIV Is Dead at 54

Timothy Ray Brown was known as the 'Berlin patient'
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 30, 2020 9:30 AM CDT
Man Who Made History as the 'Berlin Patient' Dead at 54
This March 4, 2019, file photo shows Timothy Ray Brown in Seattle.   (AP Photo/Manuel Valdes, File)

The first person cured of HIV—a feat Timothy Ray Brown managed more than a decade ago—has died from cancer. He was 54. The BBC reports Brown, known as the "Berlin patient," learned he had HIV in 1995 while living in the German city. In 2007 he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and the AP reports he underwent two bone marrow transplants from the same donor, in 2007 and 2008. The donor had a mutation that bestowed a resistance to HIV on Brown. His HIV levels became undetectable, and he stopped taking antiviral drugs. He was free of the virus until his death, which was caused by a resurgence of the cancer last year; it spread to his brain and spinal cord. He died Tuesday at his home in Palm Springs, Calif., according his partner, Tim Hoeffgen.

The BBC gives context to Brown's cure, explaining it's too costly and high-risk an approach to use as a general treatment, but noting that his story "inspired scientists, patients, and the world that a cure could eventually be found." The head of the International Aids Society said pretty much that: "We owe Timothy and his doctor, Gero Huetter, a great deal of gratitude for opening the door for scientists to explore the concept that a cure for HIV is possible." As Brown himself wrote in 2015, when it came time to look for a bone marrow donor, "many patients do not have any matches; I had many matches, 267. This gave Dr. Huetter the idea of looking for a donor who had a mutation called CCR5 Delta 32 on the CD4 cells making them nearly immune to HIV." A second man, Adam Castillejo, is thought to have been cured by a transplant much like Brown’s in 2016. (More obituary stories.)

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