First patient cured of HIV

First-ever patient cured of HIV succumbs to leukemia


  • Timothy Ray Brown underwent a transplant from a donor with a rare gene mutation that makes the person resistant to HIV.
  • Dr. Gero Huetter was the head of the team who performed the bone marrow and stem cell transplant.
  • Brown and Huetter’s team are regarded as groundbreakers in the fight to cure HIV.

In a statement from the International Aids Society which mourns the death of the first person to be cured of HIV, Timothy Ray Brown, they said that Brown and Dr. Gero Huetter, were owed “a great deal of gratitude” for promoting research on a cure.

For his part, Dr. Huetter said “Timothy symbolized that it is possible, under special circumstances,” to rid a patient of HIV — something that many scientists had doubted could be done. Dr. Huetter led the team for the groundbreaking treatment for Brown.

Brown was called “the Berlin patient” as Brown was working as a translator in Berlin at the time of his HIV diagnosis. He later was also diagnosed with leukemia. 

Dr. Huetter combined treating leukemia with HIV through bone marrow and stem cell transplants as it works for the treatment of blood cancer. He used the blood from a donor who had a rare gene mutation that gives natural resistance to the AIDS virus.

The transplant worked partially for the first operation in 2007 as Brown’s HIV disappeared while his leukemia stayed. The second transplant in 2008, also from the same donor, was more successful as both his HIV and blood cancer were eliminated.

Until it recurred last year. Brown said, “I’m still glad that I had it. It opened up doors that weren’t there before” and inspired scientists to work harder to find a cure.

Because of the rarity of donors with the same gene mutation and riskiness of transplants, gene therapy tests that would produce the same results have been done.

A “Brazil man,” who underwent therapy with a powerful combination of drugs aimed at flushing dormant HIV from the body, is on a long-term remission which is giving AIDS research, hope, researchers said at an AIDS conference in July.

Brown’s partner, Tim Hoeffgen, posted on social media that Brown died Tuesday at his home in Palm Springs, California, due to leukemia.  “It’s a very sad situation” that cancer returned and took his life, because he still seemed free of HIV.

At the news of Brown’s death, Mark King, a Baltimore man who writes a blog said that Brown “was just this magnet for people living with HIV, like me,” and embodied the hope for a cure. That Brown said from the beginning ‘I don’t want to be the only one. They have to keep working on this.’”

Even before his death, Brown’s example inspired more research. In 2016, a second man, Adam Castillejo, who was first called “the London patient” before his identity reveal this year, underwent a similar transplant to Brown’s and is believed to be HIV-free.



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