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second patient hiv-free with breakthrough treatment

March 5, 2019
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More than 30 years after the proliferation of HIV/AIDS, everything from treatments to awareness to safety to stigmas surrounding the virus have drastically changed. And during this time, what was once a death sentence became something manageable to, now, perhaps, something non-existent.

For what was the second time in the epidemic’s history, a patient appears to have been cured of HIV. Thanks to a stem-cell transplant that replaced the patient’s white blood cells with HIV-resistant ones, the virus has gone into what doctors are describing as a remission.

If this story sounds familiar, that’s because it is. This stem-cell technique was used a decade ago on another patient called Timothy Ray Brown, aka Berlin patient, who has been clear of the virus ever since. The second, unnamed patient, similarly has been able to stop taking antiretroviral drugs and shows no signs of the virus returning even 18 months after the original stem-cell treatment.

“By achieving remission in a second patient using a similar approach, we have shown that the Berlin Patient was not an anomaly and that it really was the treatment approaches that eliminated HIV in these two people,” said Ravindra Gupta, lead author of the study and a professor in University College London’s Division of Infection and Immunity.

“It is a landmark. After 10 years of not being able to replicate (the first case), people were wondering if this was a fluke,” said lead author Ravindra Gupta, a professor at the University of Cambridge.”I think it is important to reaffirm that this is real and it can be done,” Gupta told AFP.

As of 2017, there are more than 36.9 million people living with HIV/AIDS globally. An average of 5,000 people become infected with the virus every single day.