Battling AIDS can be as overwhelming as cancer, both for the patient as well as their family. Now, more than a decade after the first patient was cured, scientists are finally another step closer to finding a cure.
Looks like HIV positive patients across the world and their families have a new reason to believe that there is hope for life, despite their fatal disease after all. Finally, for the second time since the epidemic broke out, a patient from London has been cured of the dreaded HIV infection which causes the fatal disease, AIDS, according to The New York Times.
12 years ago, the very first patient from Berlin, Timothy Ray Brown, who was cured of HIV is now able to live a happy and normal life. But for a long time, researchers were left wondering whether the first instance was merely luck, a fluke or just happened by chance. And finally, more than a decade later, now that a second person has been cured, researchers believe that although it's difficult, a proper cure for HIV might still be possible.
“This will inspire people that cure is not a dream,” said Dr. Annemarie Wensing, a virologist at the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands. “It’s reachable.”
The London patient has chosen to remain anonymous, but he understands how his life and health plays an important role in possibly healing thousands of people in different parts of the world from this deadly disease. Being a part of the experience and knowing that he could be cured of cancer as well as HIV infection made him feel “surreal” and “overwhelming.”
He said, “I feel a sense of responsibility to help the doctors understand how it happened so they can develop the science.”
HIV patients often spend their entire life with the disease haunting them. He went on to say, “I never thought that there would be a cure during my lifetime.” And now, life has completely changed for him, and hopefully, it can change for HIV positive people as well.
Before scientists were able to cure a person of the disease for the second time, they had to go through multiple failures, and they lost a number of people along the way. Most times, the virus would make a comeback once they stopped taking antiretroviral drugs, which is required for people with HIV to remain healthy, according to Avert. That's when the researchers wondered whether there will ever be a second patient who's cured of the disease. But at the right time, it happened.
Another reason why the cure of the London patient was notable is because the first time around, Timothy Brown had to endure harsh procedures. “He was really beaten up by the whole procedure,” said Dr. Steven Deeks, an AIDS expert at the University of California, San Francisco, who was part of the team that treated Timothy Brown. “And so we’ve always wondered whether all that conditioning, a massive amount of destruction to his immune system, explained why Timothy was cured but no one else.”
But thankfully, one of the other conclusions from the London patient's cure was that a patient does not need a "near-death experience" for the treatment to work. “I think this does change the game a little bit,” said Dr. Ravindra Gupta, a virologist at University College London who was part of the London patient's cure. “Everybody believed after the Berlin patient that you needed to nearly die basically to cure HIV, but now maybe you don’t.”
Timothy Brown, who will always be the first cured patient, believes that the London patient's effects will be longterm. “If something has happened once in medical science, it can happen again,” he said. “I’ve been waiting for company for a long time.” And he hopes to meet him sometime.
While nobody is calling this a permanent cure for HIV, people are glad that there is progress and movement happening in the right direction. And possibly in the near future, there might be an easier solution that can be replicated in other people.