July 25, 2012 | by Michael K. Lavers
‘Berlin Patient’ announces foundation to seek AIDS cure
Gay News, Washington Blade, HIV/AIDS

Timothy Ray Brown (Blade photo by Michael Key)

The man who maintains he is the first person in the world to be cured of AIDS stressed during a D.C. news conference on Tuesday that he continues to live without HIV.

“I am HIV negative, and I am free of the virus,” Timothy Ray Brown nervously told reporters, scientists and HIV/AIDS activists at the Westin City Center hotel.

Brown, who became known as the “Berlin Patient,” tested HIV positive in 1995 while studying in the German capital. He maintains that his body became resistant to HIV in 2007 after he underwent the first of two bone marrow stem cell transplants to treat leukemia.

However, researchers from the University of California-San Francisco and other institutions announced last month that they had found traces of HIV in Brown’s blood and tissue samples.

While not a definitive diagnosis, media reports began to question whether Brown’s claim that he had actually been cured of the disease.

“Despite what you may have read and heard recently in the media — I am cured of the AIDS virus,” stressed Brown. “My doctors and the scientists I continue to work with on a regular basis have concluded that I am cured of AIDS — and will remain cured.”

Brown, who had previously never held a news conference in the United States, also unveiled a new foundation that shares his name that will support efforts to find a cure for AIDS. This announcement coincided with the second full day of the International AIDS Conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

“This foundation will support and invest in cutting-edge therapies and treatments that show promise and have the potential to lead to the end of this disease,” said Brown. “If it weren’t for my own doctor in Berlin, who took a chance on an alternative therapy, I would not be standing here in front of you as living proof that there is — and could be — a cure for AIDS.”

World AIDS Institute CEO David Purdy first met Brown before the 19th International AIDS Conference taking place in Washington. He said during the news conference that his story provides hope to those who continue to struggle with HIV/AIDS.

“I’ve lived with HIV myself for 18 years,” said Purdy. “In the early days of AIDS, people talked about a cure, but the way they talked about it was we need a cure and we need a cure now because they didn’t know what else to say. They didn’t know what an antiretroviral was. The  idea of an AIDS drug was not even on the horizon at that point in time, but it’s different now and it’s because of one man — one very special man.”

Purdy added that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) described Brown as a “miracle” when they met during an AIDS 2012 reception on Monday night.

“Leader Pelosi was honored to meet Timothy Ray Brown, the ‘Berlin Patient,’ yesterday during her event in honor of the International AIDS Conference,” Pelosi spokesperson Drew Hammill told the Blade. “Thanks to his bravery and the ingenuity of his doctor, we have renewed hope for achieving a cure for this horrific disease.”

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

4 Comments
  • My partner recently died of the same leukemia that nearly killed Brown. A year ago – while Brown was making headlines – we could find NO hospital in America willing to give a bone marrow transplant to an HIV positive patient. None.
    We like to think of America as being bold and eager to experiment, and Europe as being old and stodgy, reluctant to change. But clearly there is something wrong with our capacity to innovate in this country when something so obvious could not even be attempted here in the US.

  • Mr. Lavers,

    Although, it is pleasant to hear that Timothy Ray Brown is the first person in the world to be cured of AIDS, I have to say that there might be a woman who has been the first person to be cured of AIDS. In order to protect her identity I will not reveal her name but she is someone from the Dominican Republic who was treated for HIV with an experimental UV light treatment. She started out with 34, 552 RNA copies/ml before treatment and her physical condition was unfortunate. She was weak, thin, and couldn’t walk well. Immediately after 8 treatments her viral load went up to 156,818 RNA copies/ml. This was explained by a physician as it being the dead virus (or fragments of) in her blood that was causing the elevated reading. 4 years later she was tested again and she had not had any further treatments of any kind. Her viral load had been reduced in that period of time to 170 RNA copies/ml. The patient was tested again in 2009 and she tested undetectable which is amazing because it may indicate that this woman has the HIV antibody in her system. The patient agreed to get tested again in June of 2012and her viral load results were 0.039. There might even be more people who have been cured from AIDS in Africa before Mr. Brown. This is just some information I wanted you and the rest of the world to know. If you were to talk to various doctors around the world like we have this woman’s immune system could contain the antibody for every AIDS victim in the world. There is a large possibility where this is where it sits.
    Patient: E.M.S. Disease HIV 1st viral load/date 34552 RNA copies/mL (2/9/05) Number of treatments 8 2nd viral load/date 156818 RNA copies/mL (3/29/05) No treatments 3d viral load/date 170 RNA copies/mL (8/17/09)

    No treatments

    4th viral load/ date
    HIV-1 RNA Not Detected
    (4/25/11)

    5th viral load/date
    0.039 RNA copies/mL
    (6/18/2012)

  • pls tell us we want to try for transplant of bon marrow

  • pls tell me where we can transplant bonmaroow at german and really it can be cure ?

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