Timothy Ray Brown, the first person to be cured of the virus HIV passed away in Palm Springs on Tuesday after a decade-long battle with Leukemia. He was 54.
In 2007, Brown underwent a bone marrow transplant in Berlin, where he had been working as a German translator, to treat his cancer. His hematologist, Dr. Gero Hütter, started looking for a donor with a genetic mutation that prevented HIV from entering the body’s cells. At first Brown was averse to the risky procedure “I did not need to be a guinea pig and risk my life receiving a transplant that might kill me,” he told the National Institute of Health in 2015, but he went through with the procedure and soon found the HIV virus eliminated from his body.
When his successful treatment was made public, Brown was identified only as “the Berlin Patient.” In 2010, he moved back to the United States and made his identity public with interviews in New York magazine, Science, and POZ magazine. Two years later he started a foundation to work on a cure and an HIV vaccine. “I will not stop,” he told the NIH, “until HIV is cured!”
Dr. Hütter became the head of the stem cell unit of the Institute of Transfusion Medicine and Immunology Mannheim of the Heidelberg University. His research is supported by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. “Timothy symbolized that it is possible, under special circumstances to cure HIV,” the doctor said this week. “T Six other cancer patients, treated in the same way, seem to also be free of the virus, according to the IrsiCaixa AIDS Research Institute in Barcelona, Spain.
Brown suffered additional health setbacks, including a head injury after he was mugged in Berlin. Resettled in Southern California, Brown met his partner Tim Hoeffgen on an online dating app in 2013. The two shared a small apartment in Palm Springs, which turned into a hospital suite when Brown’s cancer returned. A hospital visit in April turned into a seven-week stay, with Hoeffgen by his side. “He’s a person you can’t help loving. He’s so sweet,” Hoeffgen told The Blade. “The cancer treatments have been rough. Sometimes I wonder if it’s worse than the disease.”
Hoeffgen told the paper that he asked Brown what sort of statement he would like to release about his health. He said, “Tell people to keep fighting. Fight for a cure for HIV that works for everyone. I never wanted to be the only one.”