Timothy Ray Brown, who made history as the first person known to be cured of HIV infection, has died.

According to a social media post by his partner, Tim Hoeffgen, Brown died on Tuesday at his home in Palm Springs, California. 

Known as the ‘Berlin Patient’, Timothy was cured in 2008 after undergoing a complex stem cell transplant for lymphoma.

For the past six months, he had been living with a recurrence of the leukaemia that had entered his spine and brain but remained HIV free. 

In a personal essay, published in 2015, Timothy talked about his passion for continuing the research.

“I did not want to be the only person in the world cured of HIV; I wanted other HIV patients to join my club,” he said. “I want to dedicate my life to supporting research to search for a cure or cures for HIV.” 

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 Adeeba Kamarulzaman, President of the IAS and Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases at the University of Malaya, sent condolences to Timothy’s partner, Tim, and his family and friends

“We owe Timothy and his doctor, Gero Hütter, a great deal of gratitude for opening the door for scientists to explore the concept that a cure for HIV is possible,” Kamarulzaman said. 

Timothy, living with HIV and with acute myeloid leukaemia, received a bone marrow transplant in Berlin, Germany, in 2007. 

The donor was naturally resistant to HIV infection because of a mutation in the CCR5 gene, a critical protein required by HIV to enter and infect cells. 

Timothy stopped antiretroviral therapy very soon after he remained free of any detectable virus. 

In other words, he was cured. 

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 His experience suggested that HIV might one day be curable. This fuelled a range of efforts by researchers and institutions focusing on cure research.

One such effort is the IAS Towards an HIV Cure initiative, established in 2011 to promote and facilitate the search for a safe and affordable cure that can be scaled up. 

Professor Sharon Lewin, President-Elect of the IAS and Director of the Doherty Institute in Melbourne, Australia, co-chairs this initiative.

A full decade after Timothy’s cure, Adam Castillejo, who had also been living with HIV, reportedly remained in HIV remission off ART, 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. 

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 “Although the cases of Timothy and Adam are not a viable large-scale strategy for a cure, they do represent a critical moment in the search for an HIV cure,” Ms Lewin said.  

“Timothy was a champion and advocate for keeping an HIV cure on the political and scientific agenda. 

“It is the hope of the scientific community that one day we can honour his legacy with a safe, cost-effective and widely accessible strategy to achieve HIV remission and cure using gene editing or techniques that boost immune control.” 

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