July 24, 2012 -- At his first U.S. news conference, the first and only man to be cured of HIV infection says he's setting up a foundation to fund an AIDS cure.
Timothy Ray Brown, 45, was living in Berlin and being treated for his HIV infection with a normal anti-HIV drug regimen. When he developed leukemia, he underwent a bone marrow transplant. His doctor decided to look for a donor who had a rare genetic mutation that makes a person resistant to HIV infection.
Such a donor was found. After having his own blood cells eradicated with radiation and powerful chemotherapy, Brown received the transplant with the anti-HIV mutation. While recovering, he was unable to take his anti-HIV drugs -- yet there was no sign of the virus in his body.
Five years later, Brown remains HIV free. A recent report that there may be lingering virus in his body is not true, Brown said at the news conference.
"Despite what you may have heard recently, I am cured of the AIDS virus," Brown said. "I am cured and will remain cured."
Brown said that doctors have tried the same type of transplant on nine other leukemia patients with HIV. None of the others survived their cancer.
Brown himself has some difficulty walking. Although his HIV disappeared after his first bone marrow transplant, his leukemia did not. He narrowly survived a second transplant, which left him with some lasting neurological damage.
He certainly does not recommend that anyone else undergo the same procedure in the hopes of being cured of HIV infection.
"I had leukemia and this was the only way for me to survive," Brown sad. "I'd do it again, but I would not wish this on my worst enemy. There were times I felt like I could die. And times I kind of wished I would. But I survived. I have a great survival spirit, and that is why I am here."
At first, Brown hoped to remain anonymous. For a time, he was known only as "the Berlin patient." Now he's stepping out of the shadows to set up a foundation to attract funds for AIDS-cure research.
"I did not choose to become the Berlin patient. I'm just a human being who took part in a cutting-edge treatment that led to my being cured of the AIDS virus," Brown said. "I am now choosing to dedicate my life, my body, and my story to finding a cure for AIDS for everyone with this disease and everyone who will be infected before a cure is found."