Patient with HIV achieves remission following stem cell transplant at City of Hope

The patient, who underwent treatment for leukemia, became the fourth person in the world and the oldest to enter long-term remission of HIV following stem cell transplantation from a donor with a rare genetic mutation. A patient at the “City of Hope,” aged 66, received a transplant from a donor naturally resistant to the virus that causes Aids.

The 66-year-leukemia old’s was to be treated by a transplant, but the physicians also sought a donor who was inherently immune to the Aids virus, a strategy that had previously been successful in curing the “Berlin patient,” Timothy Ray Brown, in 2007.

The 'City of Hope' patient, named for the California hospital he is receiving treatment at, has been functionally cured of both HIV and his leukemia after a successfull stem cell treatment (file photo)

Because he does not want to be recognized, the most recent patient, who is the fourth to be healed in this method, is known as the “City of Hope” patient after the US hospital in Duarte, California, where he was treated.

The patient is the oldest and has had HIV for the longest; he was given the diagnosis in 1988, which he regarded as a “death sentence” that claimed the lives of several of his friends.

For over 30 years, he has received antiretroviral medication (ART) to manage his disease.

Patient with HIV achieves remission following stem cell transplant at City  of Hope | City of Hope
The treatment is incredibly risky as the body may reject the implants, killing the patient. Because of these concerns it is only to be used on people who are already at-risk of death because of a severe case of cancer (file photo)

Specifically, because the stem cell donor was not a family member, doctors who presented the findings ahead of the International Aids Society’s (IAS) 2022 meeting stated the instance made it possible for older patients with HIV and blood malignancy to obtain treatment.

Although the treatment was unlikely to be an option for the majority of people with HIV due to the risks of the procedure, Sharon Lewin, president-elect of the IAS, called a cure the “holy grail” and said the “City of Hope” case provided “continued hope… and inspiration” for people with HIV and the larger scientific community.

This electron microscope image made available by the US National Institutes of Health shows a human T cell, in blue, under attack by HIV, in yellow, the virus that causes Aids.

Scientists believe that the procedure is effective because the donor’s stem cells have a particular, sporadic genetic defect that prevents them from containing the receptors that HIV uses to infect cells.

The patient at the City of Hope ceased taking ART in March 2021 following the transplant three and a half years prior, which was followed by chemotherapy. The team reported that he has already endured more than a year of HIV and leukemia remission.

However, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAids) presented data prior to the conference, which gets underway on Friday, demonstrating how the Covid-19 pandemic had stalled global efforts to combat HIV, including a reversal of progress in the world’s most populous region, Asia and the Pacific.

According to the research, hard-won advancement has stagnated, endangering the lives of millions of people.

The long-term drop in new HIV infections is flatlining globally. Even worse, UNAids reported that cases started to increase in regions of Asia and the Pacific where they had previously been declining.

The number of patients receiving HIV medications last year increased more slowly than it had in the previous ten years. The disparities are growing. In sub-Saharan Africa, teenage girls and young women are three times more likely to contract HIV than boys and men of the same age, with a new infection occurring every two minutes. The report also indicated that 650,000 people passed away from diseases related to HIV last year.

Official figures estimate that around 1.2 million Americans are suffering from HIV, but one-in-eight cases have not yet been diagnosed (file photo)

“This is an alarm to the world to say that Covid-19 has blown the Aids response significantly off track,” said Matthew Kavanagh, deputy executive director of UNAids.

Given that HIV testing slowed or even halted in many locations when Covid-19 hit, it’s possible that much more viral spread went unreported. This makes things even worse.

“People are exhausted with epidemics and pandemics,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US government’s leading Aids expert. “We have to fight twice as hard to get HIV back on the radar screen where it belongs.”