Timothy Brown became famous as the “Berlin Patient”, later using his real name to campaign against the HI virus. Now he has passed away at the age of 54.
Timothy Ray Brown, who became known as the “Berlin Patient” and was believed to be the first person to be cured by HIV, is dead. Brown died of leukemia at the age of 54, the International AIDS Society (IAS) announced.
“We are deeply indebted to Timothy and his physician Gero Hütter for opening the door for scientists to explore the concept that a cure for HIV is possible,” said IAS president Adeeba Kamarulzaman.
Brown wants to be remembered as a carrier of hope
Brown died at his home in Palm Springs, California, the New York Times reported, citing his partner, Tim Hoeffgen. “Timothy would like to be remembered as a man who gave people around the world the hope that HIV can be cured,” said Hoeffgen.
Born in 1966 in the American metropolis on the west coast of Seattle, Brown was raised by his mother alone. In 1993 he moved to Berlin, where he studied, worked in a cafe and as a translator. He was diagnosed with HIV in 1995. When he also developed leukemia in 2006, he needed a stem cell transplant.
Doctors at the Charité in Berlin found a donor lacking the so-called CCR5 receptor – a gate through which HIV enters many cells in the body. The date of the high-risk but successful stem cell transplant, February 6, 2007, Brown later called his “new date of birth.” The pathogen was no longer detectable in Brown since the transplant. The leukemia was back now.
“I had to show the world who I am”
Originally known only by his pseudonym “Berliner Patient”, Brown decided to appear publicly under his real name as an activist in the fight against HIV. “At some point, I decided I no longer wanted to be the only person in the world who was cured of HIV,” he once said in an interview. “I wanted to be more of that. And to get there I had to show the world who I am and be an HIV activist.”
Last year, doctors at University College London reported another HIV patient who may have been cured after a special stem cell transplant. The so-called “London patient” is 40-year-old Adam Castillejo, born in Venezuela. “Even if the cases of Timothy and Adam do not reveal a strategy that can be widely implemented, they represent pivotal moments in the quest for a cure for HIV,” said Sharon Lewin, head of the Doherty Institute in Melbourne, Australia, according to IAS. . A comparable therapy is only possible for a very small number of people who are infected with HIV.
Brown once said his story is important because it shows there is a cure for HIV. “And if something has happened before in a medical sense, it can happen again.”