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Number of people cured
Jul 3, 2013

Hi Nelson, Could you please tell me how many people are officially considered cured of HIV? There's so many different versions of the answer going around. Thanks so much.

Response from Mr. Vergel

I do not blame you for being confused! We have seen so many reports (some real and some bogus) out there about the cure.

These are the people that have been reported so far and how they got cured (either complete eradication or functional cure where virus is controlled in the blood but may remain in reservoirs in small amounts).

1- The first person that may have been cured was a woman in the early 90's with cancer and HIV who was treated with chemo and radiation while she stayed on nucleoside analogs. She died of cancer related complications but her autopsy revealed no HIV DNA. There is some controversy around the testing used in those early years that dispute these findings.

2- Timothy Brown ("The Berlin Patient") who got treated for his cancer relapse with chemotherapy+ radiation+ bone marrow transplant from a CCR5 negative donor (a donor whose immune cells had no CCR5 receptor - one of the "doors" needed for HIV to infect). Timothy has no HIV RNA (viral load of fully formed virus) or DNA (virus particles that do not constitute a fully formed virus and which hides in tissue) after over 5 years.Nelson, How is Timothy Brown doing?

3- 14 people from the Visconti cohort control HIV after interrupting HIV treatment that they started very early after infection. These patients have a functional cure since they seem to still harbor some small amounts of DNA in their reservoirs. Can Very Early HIV Treatment "Cure" Some People of Their Infection?

4- The "Mississippi baby" who was given HIV medications within 30 hours of birth. So far, the baby has no traces of HIV RNA or DNA. Mississippi Baby Cured: One Study Whose Impact Will Last Well Beyond CROI 2013

5- A recent report of a German patient who started HIV medications within a month of his infection. This is a functional cure. German Researchers Report Case of Functional Cure After Very Early HIV Treatment

6- Last but not least, two men with HIV and lymphoma who received hematopoietic stem cell transplants at hospitals in Boston (transfer of stem cells that will replace all blood cells, derived the from genetically matched donors) have been RNA and DNA free for over 4 weeks after getting off their HIV medications. Unlike Timothy Brown, these men stayed on HIV antiretroviral therapy as they received received stem cell transplants with a reduced-intensity conditioning regimen of chemotherapy designed to eradicate the lymphoma and eliminate the existing bone marrow. Also, their conditioning regimen did not include radiotherapy and it did not eliminate the residual lymphocyte population. In contrast, Timothy Brown received a much more aggressive regimen (chemo+radiation) which eliminated existing bone marrow cells. The stem cell transplants also differed from Timothy's because they did not come from donors with genetic resistance to HIV infection (a double CCR5 delta 32 mutation), so the cells were susceptible to HIV infection. This is a big step since these donors are very difficult to find.Two stem cell transplant recipients now controlling HIV off treatment

There is a long way to get to a cure that is practical, proven, non-toxic, and widely available to all. I encourage people to sign up on ResearchMatch.org to volunteer in studies in the future.

Mark King made a short video in which some leading activists on cure research speak about the upcoming challenges to the community HIV Cure Activists Speak

Let's keep our hopes up! And let's start educating the community about upcoming challenges in asking people to take risks by enrolling in cure related studies in the next few years.

Video: What Can We Do Now to Speed Up HIV Cure Research?

In health and hope,

Nelson Vergel



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