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PASSAGES Timothy Ray Brown, who was cured of HIV, dies of cancer at 54
2020-10-01

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After a five-month battle with leukemia, Timothy Ray Brown—publicized as the first known person to be cured of HIV, and also known by many as "The Berlin Patient"—has died of cancer, according to the International AIDS Society ( IAS ). Brown was 54.

Brown was considered cured of his HIV infection in 2008, CNN.com reported. In the previous year, Brown received a bone marrow transplant in Berlin to treat a separate disease he had been diagnosed with: acute myeloid leukemia. The bone marrow he received came from a donor whose genes carried CCR5-delta 32—a rare mutation that made the donor naturally resistant to HIV and which was transferred to Brown.

"On behalf of all its members and the Governing Council, the IAS sends its condolences to Timothy's partner, Tim, and his family and friends," IAS President and Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases at the University of Malaya Adeeba Kamarulzaman, said in a statement.

IAS noted that a full decade after Timothy Brown's cure, Adam Castillejo, who had also been living with HIV, reportedly remained in HIV remission off antiretroviral therapy, 19 months after receiving a bone-marrow transplant for Hodgkin's lymphoma from a CCR5-negative donor. Now known as "The London Patient," he remains in remission and is widely considered to be the second man cured of HIV.

Windy City Times interviewed Brown in 2013 ( www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Forget-the-Berlin-Patient-and-meet-Timothy-Ray-Brown-/43464.html ). Among other things, he said that "Considering the fact that I am not German and not from Berlin but rather Seattle, I prefer people to refer to me by my name: Timothy Ray Brown or Timothy for short."

As for those who speculated he was actually still positive, Brown responded, "Almost every part of my body has been biopsied, including my brain. My blood has been tested countless times. No researcher has found any living replicable virus anywhere in my body." Asked about feeling negatively about being considered the only person cured of HIV at one point, Brown said he "had a feeling of guilt of being the only person cured of HIV."

AIDS Foundation of Chicago emailed a statement to Windy City Times: "AFC is saddened to hear about the passing of Timothy Ray Brown.

"While the treatment that led to him being the first person cured of HIV was nothing short of miraculous, the fact that he was cured provided hope that, someday, a cure would be available to all. We are thankful for his significant contributions to expanding our understanding of HIV and speaking publicly about his experience as he did with AFC and other organizations throughout the world. HIV treatment today possesses cure-level effectiveness in helping people living with HIV and AIDS thrive, but yet, Timothy Ray Brown's remarkable story still inspires us."

Chicago agency TPAN—which also aims to save lives and empower people affected by HIV/AIDS and related challenges—sent a statement to Windy City Times as well: "TPAN mourns the passing of our dear friend, Timothy Ray Brown, the first person to be cured of HIV. Timothy, who had been known simply as The Berlin Patient, was cured in 2008 after receiving two bone marrow transplants for leukemia that both rid his body of HIV while giving him new cells that were resistant to HIV. He stopped taking antiretrovirals soon after, and remained free of any detectable virus. He had been dealing with the recurrence of his leukemia since earlier this year, and died peacefully at home in Palm Springs surrounded by his friends and partner Tim Hoeffgen.

"Timothy advocated for research toward a cure for HIV, subjecting himself to numerous tests and procedures in hopes of advancing the research, and served as an inspiration to others who hope for a cure. In a recent Facebook post," TPAN Director of Publications and Positively Aware editor Jeff Berry said. "I had the privilege of getting to know Timothy and his partner Tim over the years, and would bump into him at conferences and during our many visits to Palm Springs. [They] made such a cute couple, and always seemed to be having too much fun, and made you feel like you wanted to get in on the joke.

"We covered Timothy's story and advocacy in Positively Aware many times over the years, but the piece I'm most proud of was one he wrote for us in 2015, when he came out as a strong advocate of PrEP. He said, in part, 'Although I have been cured of HIV, I sincerely wish that PrEP had been available during my early years of sexual activity. I was diagnosed in 1995; I wish that I had never had to deal with the fear of thinking I only had about two years to live, or with the fear of judgment and stigma from friends, family, and the general public. I also had to take many pills daily for 11 years while being HIV-positive. For most people it means a lifetime of taking daily multiple medications, unless they are able to 'join' my cure club. With PrEP back then, I never would have had to go through any of this. I wish this for all people who are currently at risk for HIV.

"Thank you, Timothy, for your advocacy, your heart, and for giving back to the community way more than we ever gave you. You inspired hope in all of us, and made us better, just by being yourself, and leading by example. We'll miss you."


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