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The “London Patient” rekindles HIV cure hope

Only one person (popularly called the Berlin Patient) has ever been cured of HIV. A second HIV patient (the London Patient) has now been annouced as being off HIV treatment and has no evidence of active HIV infection based on tests done so far. This is called sustained remission from the virus. If the London Patient remains in sustained remission for much longer, he could become the second person confirmed cured of HIV in the world. Time will tell.

It is important to note that the path taken by both the Berlin Patient and the London Patient is a hard one. Both patients underwent bone marrow transplants to treat blood cancers, and received stem cells from donors with a genetic mutation that prevents HIV from taking hold. The International AIDS Society said in a statement that the developments around the London Patient “reaffirm our belief that there exists a proof of concept that HIV is curable”. However, the technique used by the Berlin and London Patients is only viable among a tiny percentage of sufferers. This is because bone marrow transplantation can cause severe complications and is reserved for severe life-threatening conditions. Moreover, there is a rarity of people who have the genetic mutation that prevents HIV infection and would make them suitable stem cell donors for HIV cure.

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