Queer Health Warrior Dr. Demetre Discusses Second Patient Declared HIV-Free

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A second HIV patient is reportedly in remission, according to the journal Nature.

The case marks only the second time in a dozen years where scientists believe they may have cured a patient’s infection of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

In the case study published earlier today, a male referred to only as “London patient” is believed to be free of the disease after having contracted the virus, which currently afflicts some 37 million people across the globe. HIV infection and AIDS causes nearly a million deaths every year.

Physicians and scientists are greeting today’s news — which comes more than a decade after a “Berlin patient” was declared HIV-free — with equal measures of caution and optimism.

We found an HIV and AIDS expert, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, to put things in layman’s terms:

In both cases, patients received stem cell transplants from HIV-resistant donors who displayed a rare genetic mutation that provided added immunity to the disease. While the process is labyrinthian, delicate and expensive it is still being called a medical milestone, since scientists are actually using the word “cure” as well as “remission.”

It’s worth noting that each patient was actually undergoing bone marrow transplant procedures in order to battle cancer rather than HIV. Such transplants are considered high risk, with side effects that can linger for years to come.

Duplicating the science that “cured” Timothy Ray Brown more than 12 years ago would mark a major step forward in treatments for the disease, say experts. Although the treatments that helped Brown and the London patient fight off the disease are impractical as widespread treatment, the remissions do provide a path for researchers to follow.

Numerous attempts to cure HIV patients using the Berlin procedure have all failed — until this one.

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According to Ravindra Gupta, a professor in University College London’s Division of Infection and Immunity and lead author of the study, “by achieving remission in a second patient using a similar approach, we have shown that the Berlin Patient was not an anomaly and that it really was the treatment approaches that eliminated HIV in these two people.”

In order to make certain the patient’s infection was gone, he was taken off the cocktail of treatment he’d been on since 2012, although he was diagnosed as HIV-positive in 2003. The stem cell procedure took place in 2016, and he remained on antiretroviral therapy until 18 months ago.

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Last modified: March 12, 2019

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