A German patient once living with HIV appears to be free of the virus following a medical procedure intended to treat cancer, though a realistic HIV cure for a wider range of people is nowhere in sight.
Announced at a medical conference in Seattle on Tuesday, a man in Germany, known only as “the Düsseldorf patient," seemed to be free of infection after receiving a bone marrow transplant from a donor with a rare HIV-resistant mutation called CCR5, New Scientist reports. This makes him the third known person to have been cleared of the virus that causes AIDS in this fashion, following Timothy Brown in 2007 and the anonymous “London patient” whose remission was announced on Monday.
While covering the London patient earlier this week, Out spoke with members of ACT UP NY, an activist group focused on ending the AIDS crisis. They told us that the news offers a “glimmer of hope” that a cure for HIV might someday be found, but that this form of treatment — bone marrow transplants from donors with a rare genetic mutation — is risky and unscalable, promising nothing for people currently living with HIV. They also worried that this news would obscure all of the safe and scalable methods for treating HIV that do exist, as well issues that prevent people from accessing those treatment methods.
“It is unrealistic to think that people with HIV could or should undergo risky bone marrow transplant procedures to cure their HIV when sticking to their medication makes the virus undetectable and largely mitigates its effects,” said Brandon Cuicchi of ACT UP NY. “There is a current crisis of [antiretroviral] shortages in Venezuela and neighboring countries, and I’d hate for this news to dim the depth of the current epidemics still happening.”