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HIV returns in two men thought to have been "cured"

Last summer, researchers in Boston announced that they had two patients, men who had battled HIV for years but who now appeared to be virus free. The men had received a treatment similar to that of Timothy Ray Brown, the "Berlin Patient". Like Brown, the men had cancer and had received radiation and chemotherapy treatments followed by bone marrow transplants. But there were some key differences. Brown's radiation and chemo regimes were much harsher, for one thing. For another, his new bone marrow came from a donor with the CCR5-delta32 mutation, which seems to provide natural resistance to HIV infection. The Boston men got their new bone marrow from donors who did not have that mutation.

Nevertheless, both men had seen their viral loads fall to undetectable levels. They hit the news in July after being off of antiretroviral drugs for seven and 15 weeks, respectively, with no return of the virus. Unfortunately, the virus re-emerged in one of the two men the very next month. It re-emerged in the other man in November.

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Interview with the Berlin Patient

Timothy Ray Brown (aka, The Berlin Patient) is the first person to go from being HIV+ to HIV-. Usually, he's described as the first person to be cured of AIDS. Scientists are a bit more circumspect about the situation. Brown got a bone marrow transplant using marrow donated by a person whose body has natural resistance to HIV. That was in 2005. Now off of anti-retroviral drugs, Brown's HIV has (so far) not returned. Two other men have been through the same treatment with promising results, although they are still taking anti-retroviral drugs, so it's impossible to say yet whether they are also actually HIV-.

Even if this is a cure, it is not the world's most widely applicable cure. Yet. But it is very interesting and, obviously, an amazing story.

I've never heard Timothy Ray Brown speak before, so I wanted to post this interview video from Democracy Now. It probably won't add much to the story that you didn't already know, but it's powerful to see the guy, himself, talking about it.

Via Samal Coff

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