London HIV Patient Becomes Second Person To Be 'Functionally Cured' Of Virus

After three years of bone marrow transplant, the patient no longer shows any trace of HIV infection.

A HIV test kit in the hands of a patient.

A London-based HIV Positive patient has been officially cleared of the virus following a three year-programme of bone marrow transplant.

The man had been receiving the marrow from a donor who is HIV resistant due to a rare genetic mutation. Institutions involved in the man’s case include researchers and doctors from the Imperial College London, Cambridge, Oxford and University College London.

Though the patient now shows no trace of HIV infection, this case does not signify that a cure for HIV has been found. The leading doctor on the case – Dr Ravindra Gupta – has described the patient as being “functionally cured” and “in remission”. Speaking on the man’s status, the doctor said:

“There is no virus that we can measure. We can’t detect anything.”

Dr Gupta clarified that it is “too early to say he’s cured”.

The British man had been diagnosed with HIV in 2003. Nine years later he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. During chemotherapy, he received a stem cell transplant from a donor who was HIV resistant, which cured his Hodgkin’s Lymphoma as well as clearing traces of the virus.

The British man is the second patient in the history of the virus to show no trace of infection following treatment. In 2007 Timothy Ray Brown underwent the same treatment in Berlin. Like the London patient, Brown had also been treated with chemotherapy, in his case to treat his leukaemia.

Dr Gupta said that while the results do not signify that a cure for HIV has been found, he does acknowledge that the successful treatment of the London patient demonstrates that the case of Brown was not an anomaly.

A HIV test used to test a patient in a lab.

He said:

“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.”

Speaking of this development, KnowNow co-ordinator Adam Shanley said that current treatment regimens are less invasive than bone marrow transplants and are incredibly effective:

“This is encouraging news for a HIV cure, however bone marrow transplants are an incredibly invasive and costly procedure. Current treatment regimens are incredibly effective at keeping PLWHIV healthy & well and it also stops onward transmission. #UequalsU”

HIV rates in the UK have seen a decline in recent years, with the Government announcing plans to bring new diagnoses to zero by 2030. Meanwhile, new HIV diagnoses rates in Ireland continue to rise. In fact, in 2018 the total number of new diagnosis exceeded figures recorded during the AIDS crisis in the 80s and the 90s.

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