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.
“We are linked up very closely with our state health department, our community physicians who take care of HIV, and actually our HIV-infected community, who’s really been supportive for over 20 years of our initiatives. We also have a laboratory that is really into some very exciting cure work,” said Dr. Cecilia Shikuma, who serves as director of the Hawaiʻi Center for AIDS.
Among those who are enthusiastic about the research emerging from the Hawaiʻi Center for AIDS laboratories is Dave Purdy, the CEO of the World AIDS Institute.
“It is really the people and the stories that make up the effort that are going to lead to a cure. And I could absolutely see that happening in Hawaiʻi, in the islands of Hawaiʻi, and the great work that you guys are doing,” said Purdy.
Approximately 2,900 people are living with the virus in Hawaiʻi. Experts say many are likely unaware that they are even infected. JABSOM hopes to raise $6 million to fund its search for a cure, and reduce Hawai’i HIV cases to zero.
Videos of the conference may be seen here.
More about Timothy Ray Brown
Timothy Ray Brown is the Editor of the Cure Report and the Co-Founder of both the Cure For AIDS Coalition and the World AIDS Institute.
Globally known as “the Berlin Patient,” Brown is the first known person in the world to be cured of HIV. Brown was diagnosed in 1995 while attending university in Berlin, Germany. Over the next 11 years, Brown was successfully treated with anti-retroviral therapy (ART), a combination of medicines that inhibit the replication of HIV in the body. In 2006, Brown was diagnosed with leukemia and began chemotherapy. A year later, he received a stem cell transplant to treat his leukemia. After the first transplant, HIV was no longer found in his blood. Brown is the editor of the Cure Report and Co-Founder of both the Cure for AIDS Coalition and World AIDS Institute.
To learn more about Hawaiʻi to Zero and the Dec. 5 conference, see http://hawaii2zero.jabsom.hawaii.edu/
Visit http://jabsom.hawaii.edu/news-media/uh-med-now/ for more information.