Both cases followed the precedent set by the "Berlin patient", who is the first ever person cured of HIV back in 2007. Viral suppression is a measurement of the degree to which the HIV virus is in a person's bloodstream.
This week, a team of scientists and physicians from the United Kingdom published news of a second HIV positive man, in London, who is in long-term (18-month) HIV remission after undergoing treatment for Hodgkins lymphoma.
But just like the protease inhibitors and triple therapy were not a cure in 1996, the eradication of HIV from the bodies of two men across more than a dozen years undergoing stem cell or bone marrow transplants with cells that have the CCR5 genetic mutation is simply not the promise of an impending cure for HIV for at least four important reasons: it is highly risky; it is extremely expensive; it is not scalable; and it is not sustainable.
This approach is not practical for treating most patients with HIV, but it may one day lead to finding a cure.
The Dusseldorf patient also received a bone marrow transplant from a donor with the CCR5 mutation. The genetic mutation of CCR5 makes the donor naturally resistant to HIV.
The transplant involves killing nearly all the immune cells and replacing them with donor cells, and is so risky it can only be carried out on people with cancer. Then the patient receives a transplant of new stem cells from either themselves or a donor. These medications are so effective that today a person living with HIV has nearly the same life expectancy of someone without HIV infection.
Researchers learned that Brown and the "London patient" both shared a novel treatment course. "Meanwhile focus needs to be on diagnosing HIV patients promptly and starting them on the lifelong cART treatment to help prevent further spread of the virus and provide the opportunity for those infected to live near normal life expectancy". Patient is in HIV remission 18 months later.
CCR5 receptor is most commonly used by the HIV-1 virus to enter cells. When HIV-infected individuals are compliant with the prescribed use of the AIDS cocktail, their viral load is undetectable and they become untransmittable, meaning they can not sexually transmit the HIV virus to others. Though their procedures were different from those the London Patient and the Berlin Patient, this demonstrates that caution is critical when we talk about this as a "cure". To end the global HIV epidemic, it is extremely important that there be 100 percent universal access to these important treatments - not just to those who can afford their expensive retail prices. After three months without taking his antiviral medication, gut and lymph nodes biopsies show no infectious HIV in his body.
Most importantly, the HIV community learned that Brown's case was not unique.
This article first appeared on The Conversation.