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.”