Timothy Ray Brown
The world is on the verge of a significant breakthrough in the fight against AIDS. In his first American press conference this week, Timothy Ray Brown of San Francisco, known in medical circles as the “Berlin Patient” declared, “I am HIV- negative. I am cured of the AIDS virus.” Brown, 46, was diagnosed as HIV positive 18 years ago and began antiretroviral treatment. His case was complicated by acute myeloid leukemia which was diagnosed in 2006. It was this diagnosis that has resulted in the possibility of a cure for AIDS. His physician, German hematologist GeroHutter, introduced Brown to a revolutionary treatment for leukemia that turned out to be a cure for both diseases. Dr.Hutter gave Brown a stem- cell bone- marrow transplant from a donor who had a natural immunity to the HIV virus called a CCR5 mutation, which is found in less than 1 percent of Northern Europe’s population. After receiving the transplant, Brown was found to have no active HIV virus cells in his body.
Brown has thus also come to be known by the appellation “miracle patient”, although some scientists question whether the HIV virus has actually disappeared from his body and if the manindeed can no longer infect others. In his reaction to doubts about his health status, Brown said, “There is undoubtedly a certain amount of skepticism, but that is the way science progresses.” Brown has announced the establishment of the Timothy Ray Brown Foundation in conjunction with the biennial International AIDS Conference being held in Washington this week. The institution will offer grants to scientists and researchers who specialise in innovative therapies and treatments in the race to find a cure to the AIDS epidemic.
The widespread disease has claimed millions of lives across the globe and continues to threaten the well-being of many others, particularly in Africa where there is an extremely high number of cases. In addition, finding a cure for the ailment has been highly challenging and has consumed enormous resources. Although it is now possible to manage HIV-positive patients and for such patients to live with the disease, it remains a terrifying infection that carries with it an unfortunate stigma.
It is good news indeed that a cure seems to have been found, even if only by chance. It now remains to be seen how well further research can take advantage of this obvious breakthrough to perfect the invention. The importance of this development lies in the fact that it gives hope not only in medical circles but to humanity at large, given the wide range of the epidemic. According to Brown, “We must not settle. We cannot be complacent. We must take action. We will fight every day until a cure is found for everyone.”
The defining test is to determine whether the approach that has worked wonders in the case of Brown will work for others. Given the empirical ways of science, such a definitive stage will certainly not be attained overnight. No doubt, it will require greater research, which will take some time, before the final cure iseventually achieved. But this is an important victory, all the same. It deserves praise as well as support.
The first AIDS cure is locally relevant not only because of the possible benefits to those suffering from the disease in Nigeria, but also because it is a counterpoint to claims by some self-described AIDS healers in the country who continually advertise their supposed expertise in the media. Indeed, the AIDS-cure business seems to have become an industry in the country. The scientific basis of the Brown cure has cast further doubts on such unscientific claims.
By Editorial VIA THE NATION