A man who has lived with HIV since the 1980s has become the fourth person to be cured of the disease as announced by AIDS researchers on Wednesday July 27.
The 66-year-old man named the “City of Hope” patient after the Californian center where he was treated, was cured of HIV after receiving a stem cell transplant for leukaemia.
He was declared in remission in the lead up to the International AIDS Conference, which begins in Montreal, Canada on Friday.
While the transplant was planned to treat the now-66-year-old’s leukaemia, the doctors also sought a donor who was naturally resistant to the virus that causes AIDS, a mechanism that first worked to cure the “Berlin patient”, Timothy Ray Brown, in 2007.
As well as being the oldest, the patient has also had HIV the longest, having been diagnosed in 1988 with what he described as a “death sentence” that killed many of his friends.
He has been on antiretroviral therapy (ART) to control his condition for more than 30 years.
Doctors who presented the data ahead of the International Aids Society’s (IAS) 2022 meeting said that the case opened up the potential for older patients with HIV and blood cancer to access the treatment, particularly as the donor was not a family member.
Jana Dickter, an infectious disease specialist at the City of Hope, told AFP that because the latest patient was the oldest yet to achieve remission, his success could be promising for older HIV sufferers who also have cancer.
Dickter is the lead author of research on the patient which was announced at a pre-conference in Montreal but has not been peer reviewed.
“When I was diagnosed with HIV in 1988, like many others, I thought it was a death sentence,” said the patient, who does not want to be identified.
“I never thought I would live to see the day that I no longer have HIV,” he said in a City of Hope statement. “I am beyond grateful.”
Also announced at the AIDS conference was research about a 59-year-old Spanish woman with HIV who has maintained an undetectable viral load for 15 years despite stopping antiretroviral therapy.
Sharon Lewin, president-elect of the International AIDS Society which convenes the conference, said that it was not quite the same as the City of Hope patient, because the virus remained at a very low level.
She also pointed to a “truly exciting development” towards identifying HIV in an individual cell, which is “a bit like finding a needle in a haystack”.