Timothy Ray Brown. Photo courtesy of Scott Taber.
Timothy Ray Brown, the only known person ever cured of HIV, is helping the Hawai‘i Center for AIDS at University of Hawai‘i at Manoa‘s Kaka‘ako campus launch a multimillion-dollar effort to help the state to become the first HIV-free state, as reported earlier this month by UH.
The Initiative is called “Hawaiʻi to Zero” or “H20.”
Brown spoke Dec. 5 at a daylong conference, “State of the Art and Current Efforts in HIV Cure and Prevention,” at the Sullivan Center of the UH Cancer Center in Kakaʻako.
During a news conference at the John A. Burns School of Medicine on Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, Brown said he had a hard time believing he was cured. In fact, he said he didn’t believe it until his case was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“Unfortunately, I’m the only one. I do not want to be the last one. I want there to be many others cured,” Brown said.
Brown had HIV and cancer, and his treatment for cancer, including bone marrow and stem cell transplants, ended up eradicating his HIV. Although such a treatment would only be appropriate with someone who has both cancer and HIV, the fact that Brown was cured of HIV gives researchers exciting new areas in which to focus their search for a cure for everyone.
“People have tried to replicate this because it’s really been a success story in the procedure, but one of the problems is that you have to have someone with cancer as well. So this obviously doesn’t apply to the general HIV-infected population,” said Dr. Lishomwa Ndhlovu, principal investigator at the Hawaiʻi Center for AIDS and an associate professor of Tropical Medicine and Infectious Diseases at JABSOM.
Finding a cure is important because, although people are living longer with HIV now that antiviral treatments are available, they also are showing earlier signs of aging, including cardiovascular disease and dementia. Scientists at the Hawaiʻi Center for AIDS, which has been treating patients and researching HIV for two decades in the islands, believe the state has the scientific and community infrastructure to achieve this goal.