International Aids Society hails news of HIV free patient

"The New York Times" said the latest surprise success confirms that a cure for HIV infection is possible.

But the London patient's conditioning treatment was far milder than Brown's, leading many to conclude this was probably not responsible for vanquishing the HIV virus.

"Finding a way to eliminate the virus entirely is an urgent global priority, but is particularly hard because the virus integrates into the white blood cells of its host", Gupta said in a statement, according to Healthline.

As of 2017, there were approximately 36.9 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS.

Later in 2012, he was diagnosed with advanced Hodgkin's Lymphoma. In the case of both Brown and now the London patient, the new blood cells transplanted into them were from donors who had two copies of a gene mutation for the CCR5 receptor. The inability to find HIV in their blood, coupled with the missing CCR5 receptor, constitutes the HIV viral remission of the London patient announced earlier this week.

A second person has been cleared of the HIV virus in over a decade after showing signs of long-term remission for the disease according to reports from CNN. But when CCR5 malfunctions, Time's Alice Park explains, immune cells are able to strengthen their defense system and ward off the infection.

Specialists aren't exactly sure whether the disappearance of the HIV virus was due to the mutation or whether the graft-versus-host disease, which attacked the recipient's immune cells, contributed to the disappearance of the HIV-infected cells. Patient is in HIV remission 18 months later.

This week a team of scientists and physicians from the United Kingdom published news of a second HIV positive man, in London, who is in long-term (18-month) HIV remission after undergoing treatment for Hodgkins lymphoma. Under normal circumstances, the CCR5 gene in question acts like a key of sorts, enabling H.I.V.to penetrate and infect humans' immune cells.

He is only the second person documented to be in sustained remission without ARV.

HIV Pakistan AIDS
Nearly a million people still die every year from AIDS. VOA

Timothy Brown, the "Berlin patient", was given two transplants and underwent total body irradiation to treat leukaemia, while the British patient received just one transplant and less intensive chemotherapy.

Post chemotherapy, he underwent a stem cell transplant in 2016 and subsequently remained on antiretroviral therapy for 16 months.

Infection with HIV nearly always led to AIDS, which in turn was nearly always fatal.

The same stem-cell technique was used 10 years ago on Timothy Ray Brown, known as the "Berlin patient".

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.

"This poses a particular challenge in developing countries", where millions are still not receiving adequate treatment, he added.

"Right now, we're at a point in the epidemic where people see viral suppression as a functional cure, so there's not as much interest in cure research as there used to be", said Andrew Spieldenner, a professor of communication at California State University San Marcos and the chair of US People Living with HIV Caucus.

The research was funded by Wellcome, the Medical Research Council, the Foundation for AIDS Research, and National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centres at University College London Hospitals, Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial.

The two cases have now been presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Seattle.

Vanessa Coleman

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