Global organizations leading the fight against HIV/AIDS welcomed the news that a man in London appears to be the second person ever to become HIV-free following a rare treatment – one that shows promise in helping researchers to one day find a cure.
The man was treated by specialists at University College London and Imperial College London for advanced Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2016. The treatment involved using stem cell transplants from a donor who carried a rare genetic mutation; the patient has had no trace of HIV since. The first such case was a patient in Berlin, Timothy Ray Brown, who received similar treatment for cancer in 2007.
“To find a cure for HIV is the ultimate dream,” said Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS. “Although this breakthrough is complicated and much more work is needed, it gives us great hope for the future that we could potentially end AIDS with science, through a vaccine or a cure. However, it also shows how far away we are from that point and of the absolute importance of continuing to focus HIV prevention and treatment efforts.”
Stem cell transplants are “highly complex, intensive and costly procedures,” he said. They are not feasible for treating everyone with HIV, and there were nearly 37 million people living with the infection in 2017. Yet the two cases point scientists toward new insights in their quest for a cure.
The World Health Organization also celebrated what it called an exciting development. “The case encourages further investments to find a cure from deadly HIV infection,” said WHO.